Facebook Guns for Google and Others with New Patent

Last year, when Facebook purchased its defunct competitor Friendster, some questioned the wisdom of such a seemingly frivolous purchase. After all Facebook has 500 million active users around the world and Friendster, couldn’t buy 500 likes if they tried. However, the ever clever and forward thinking Mark Zuckerberg  has chosen now to show his hand to Google and the world.

A patent granted last month to Facebook describes an approach to search that combines any type of search engine results with the popularity of each result among members of a user’s social network. Although some social media gurus thought the patent was on photo tags, it isn’t. The implications are much broader and could affect searches for special interest topics like travel, publishing, online selling and more!

The patent is called Visual tags for search results generated from social network information. Here’s the premis:

Search results, including sponsored links and algorithmic search results, are generated in response to a query, and are marked based on frequency of clicks on the search results by members of social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation from the member who submitted the query. The markers are visual tags and comprise either a text string or an image.

In other words, Facebook knows that recommendations are key tools in marketing. This is the automated version of word of mouth that is supposed to sit atop search engines.

Much like LinkedIn shows potential connections, Facebook would combine search results for a user with how others connected to the user in a social network responded to the same search results. If most people clicked on a handful of results, the user could see those links with some visual indication of their relative popularity. The system would work either fielding requests from third parties or for with the social network creating or obtaining the search results and delivering them to users.

Powerful, I think so! What do you think? Could this be the game changer Microsoft and Google have been afraid of?

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