How Interesting: Yahoo Tries To Patent Interestingness

from the well,-that's-interesting dept

Thomas Hawk, who it must be stated is a biased party as his startup Zoomr competes with Yahoo’s Flickr, is worried about some new Yahoo patent filings that attempt to patent the concept of “interestingness” as found on Flickr. Interestingness is a designation used in Flickr to rate certain photos based on a combination of metadata and activity around something to determine if the community finds it “interesting” and thus ranks it higher in results. The two patent applications in question, one for interestingness in ranking and the other for associating metadata to an object for ranking are still in the application stage — so aren’t granted patents yet. Both were applied for in February of this year, and Hawk points to his own blog post from January of 2005 to suggest prior art. His post does include some example of more community-based rankings, though it’s unclear if it’s really all that similar to what’s being patented (his system focuses more on overt voting, rather than Flickr’s ranking system which is more behind-the-scenes). It does seem like the patents being applied for seem a bit broad and, if granted and if enforced (too big ifs) could slow down more creative user-generated media efforts. If that happens, though, the end-result could actually end up damaging Yahoo just as much as others. As we’ve seen from recent reports about people losing interest in various social networks, the way to keep people interested is to keep innovating and offering something new. Having competition helps make companies continue to innovate and makes every one of the products better. By sitting back and resting on laurels, it’s only a recipe for stagnation.

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Comments on “How Interesting: Yahoo Tries To Patent Interestingness”

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misanthropic humanist says:

social "sites" are a passing fad

A peer to peer social networking tool will emerge that will wipe the social networking “sites” off the face of the Earth within months.
I predict that within 18 months to 2 years. With all the problems over privacy, piracy, ownership, bandwidth and so on social networking sites are dead in the water. A p2p model is so obviously more elegant, robust, extensible and genetically more vigorous than a localised system that its evolutionary dominance is a foregone conclusion.

E says:

Re: social "sites" are a passing fad

It’s an interesting idea, and as a nerd, a p2p version seems a lot more appealing. However, the accessability of the web is what makes Myspace capable of getting so large.

P2P would require a standalone program, and if it didn’t, it’d just be another site. The masses will always prefer the web site structure, because… they just don’t know any better.

However, these same undedicated masses will eventually tire out of Myspace, and the geeks who still prefer the Internet to their cell phones probably will have something more direct (all it would really take is some snazzy upgrading to the type of thing AIM, YIM, etc. have been doing for years).

Lucas (user link) says:

Ummm... patenting metadata itself?

From the abstract of the metadata patent:

“Metadata may be associated with media objects by providing media objects for display, and accepting input concerning the media objects, where the input may include at least two different types of metadata. For example, metadata may be in the form of tags, comments, annotations or favorites. The media objects may be searched according to metadata, and ranked in a variety of ways.”

Can someone explain to me how this is not just a patent for applying metadata to an information object (yes, I realize they specify “media object”, but is the fact that a media object is just a specific kind of information object enough for a patent?)?

How would this patent be enforced? And who will draw the line between what is data and metadata? Metadata is often less and less just metadata, and is often interrelated data that describes many other things, and has a reciprocal relationship with that first chunk of data (interdata? intradata? … can I patent this concept?).

JRH says:

Design patents guidelines request that claims be new, useful, and non obvious to persons who are familiar with the field.

Do the patents satisfy these three criteria?

Is prior art nonexistent in every country in the world?

If the answers to these two question are yes, then there is a high likelihood that these patents will be granted.

Or maybe, while still kind of expensive(esp. for 77 claims), it costs less to make ridiculous patent claims than actually advertise features of your product.

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