Buying Friendsterís patents and patent applications was one of the smartest moves Facebook ever made. Today brought publication of another Facebook patent application (filed December 2010) based at least in part on Friendsterís original filings. And should this one win approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it would give Facebook another potential weapon to keep its social-network rivals at bay.
The new application is titled Controlling Access of User Information Using Social-Networking Information. The concept is to use degrees of separation between people to control whether one social network user can retrieve information about a second. If there is a close enough relationship between them (in Facebook terms, think of the difference between friends and friends of friends), then the first user gets the information. Too great a degree of separation, and the request is denied.