More Patent Nonsense

Facebook has received a patent on the idea of "Dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network."

As if this was a novel idea whenever the patent was filed. 

Here's a comment I read on the story linked to above:

This is weird news. I run a small local social community and also use some kind of newsfeed system. Yet the earliest version of my newsfeed dates from 2003, way before facebook’s feed. If they wanted to, they could easily crush me with this patent as I dont have the judical knowledge and financial power to enter a legal battle with facebook. The could close me down, although everyone would know that it’s only because they have this patent, not because I copied the newsfeed from them.

Weird news indeed. But not surprising. As another commenter on that story wrote, "Shoot, I’ll patent “friendship”." 

Software patents make no sense. Like music, art, and other creative pursuits, software is almost always derivative work. There is not a chance in hell that Facebook invented this idea. I am certain there have been social news feeds around for at least a decade or more. I am not going to spend the time finding all the prior art, but I am sure there are patent lawyers doing that already for various social networks who are now potential subjects of patent litigation from Facebook.

Don't take this post as a slam on Facebook. They have done an incredible job of executing on an entirely obvious idea. I was chatting this past week with a tech journalist who was in college when Facebook launched. She was not at Harvard but at another ivy league school. She told me that there were "facebooks" launching all over the ivy league that year. Facebook out executed everyone and took the market. That's how it is done. But they did not come up with the idea that "we should take a facebook and put it online". They simply did it better.

Same with social news feeds. They are the dominant provider of social news feeds in the world. Because they out executed everyone else. But not because they invented the idea. Giving them a patent on this idea is lunacy. But the whole idea of software patents is lunacy. We need to eliminate software patents and we need to do it now.

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