Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

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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  1. identicon
    E, 31 Oct 2006 @ 10:39am

    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).

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