Facebook has been awarded a patent that appears to give it sweeping intellectual property jurisdiction over location-enabled social networking, something that our colleagues at BNET first noticed on Wednesday. Considering the geolocation space still , the possession of this kind of patent may be a powerful weapon for Facebook that has broad implications for the industry.
Patent no. 7,809,805, called "Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members," is extremely detailed. Among the concepts it claims are the sending and receiving of location-based status messages (what are commonly known as "check-ins"), the technology to store these check-ins, the ability to sense a street address to store in a check-in, and the receiving of a friend's check-in.
Facebook was, by many accounts, late to the game on geolocation. It, currently the most talked-about start-up in the space, but after Foursquare asked for a higher price tag Facebook withdrew its bid. In August, , a "check-in" service that would ultimately enable third parties to incorporate geolocation into their Facebook apps. And while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today that Facebook Places is "already by far the biggest places and location application that's out there," there are . Foursquare, despite , dominates headlines. Google still has its Latitude platform. And Twitter recently turned on "geotagging" of tweets.
Some in the tech industry are worried that this patent gives Facebook too much power. We've seen this concern before. Earlier this year, Facebook was, which some prominent members in the tech community slammed as an anticompetitive gesture that could snuff out any other companies building real-time streaming technology. You haven't, however, . (That doesn't mean it won't be in the future.)
Facebook also ownsthat it acquired from erstwhile rival Friendster.