This is surprising. It could be argued that social networks have around since BBS days.
Social networks is just the latest buzz word for virtual communities. Virtual communities surfaced in the mid 1990s as a common term for digital environments that allow users to gather around common interests and connect with each other.
So, is the RVClub.com, which I started years before there was a Friendster, in violation of the patent?
This is like granting Kodak a patent on digital cameras.
UPDATE: OK, so I flew off the handle. Here’s the actual
patent abstract It really only describes the “link to a friend” aspect of many newer social networks:
A method and apparatus for calculating, displaying and acting upon relationships in a social network is described. A computer system collects descriptive data about various individuals and allows those individuals to indicate other individuals with whom they have a personal relationship. The descriptive data and the relationship data are integrated and processed to reveal the series of social relationships connecting any two individuals within a social network. The pathways connecting any two individuals can be displayed. Further, the social network itself can be displayed to any number of degrees of separation. A user of the system can determine the optimal relationship path (i.e., contact pathway) to reach desired individuals. A communications tool allows individuals in the system to be introduced (or introduce themselves) and initiate direct communication. (bold added)
At least that’s the way I read it.
So, maybe the patent does describe something that didn’t exist prior to> Friendster. I can’t think of an old-school virtual community that had friends lists.