Facebook applied for patent number 7,809,805, called Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members, in early 2007. The first independent claim is what caught my eye:
A method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location, the method executed by a computer system and comprising: receiving location information and status information from a mobile device of a first user of the social networking service, the location information representing a geographic location of the first user, the status information manually provided by the first user on an input module of the mobile device; associating the location information with the status information of the first user in a database; and sending the status information and the location information of the first user to a second user for display.Let's break this down into implications:
- The mobile device could determine position by any method because all it has to do is send the data along with a status message.
- Notice that the status message must "manually provided by the first user on an input module." However, that would likely cover picking from a list of pre-supplied messages.
- The location and status have to be held in a database of some sort, and any service is likely to want to keep the data handy.
- The system has to send the data to a second party.
A computer server for providing a social networking service, comprising: a database module configured to store location information in association with status information of a first user in a database responsive to receiving the location information and the status information from a mobile device of the first user, the location information representing a geographic location of the first user, the status information manually provided by the first user on an input module of the mobile device; and a communication module configured to: receive the location information and the status information associated with the first user from the mobile device; and send the location information and the status information of the first user to a second user for display.Other claims cover interesting variations on the theme:
- A user can look for status updates from social network users in a given geographic location.
- One user can restrict location information to a specified group of other users.
- A system for sharing locations can depend on users manually entering their locations.
- Transmission of location information between two users can depend on their proximity to each other.
- A social networking system implementing such location services would also be covered.
[Update: A number of people have brought up other patents that they suggest would invalidate Facebook's. I'm not so sure and cover some of the patents in question in another post.]
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