Social-networking pioneer Friendster used to tout its industry relevance by talking about its portfolio of patented technologies--well, now those patents belong to Facebook.
A set of documents from the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) reveal that Facebook acquired the 18 patents earlier this summer from MOL Global, the Malaysia-based payments company that purchased Friendster last year.
The patents include descriptions of phenomena that will sound familiar to many a Facebook user--"feeding updates to landing pages of users of an online social network from external sources," which sounds a lot like news feed activity fed through partner sites on the Facebook platform; "authorization and authentication based on an individual's social network," like Facebook's universal login tool; and "compatibility scoring of users in a social network," a patent that Friendster was awarded fewer than two years ago.
No announcement was made; the public documents were spotted by VentureBeat this week and GigaOm cites a source who says that they cost Facebook about $40 million total. Friendster, on the other hand, had been very public about the awarding of the patents in the first place; but then again, the first of its patents was awarded in 2006, when its heyday was already over and it struggled to remain relevant. (A lasting user base in Southeast Asia, ultimately, was what kept it alive and led to the MOL Global sale.)
It's unclear whether Facebook was under any legal pressure to acquire the patents, but it's more than likely that Facebook wants to have that intellectual property locked up to prevent potential imitation. At the moment, Facebook's reach in the social-media world is unparalleled, but Google has been making high-profile moves lately to suggest that it's working to stop its trend of social-networking misfires and hit Facebook where it hurts, including big investments in social gaming, the entertainment craze that fueled Facebook's developer platform to the powerhouse that it is today. A shadowy project called "Google Me" may be next.
There's a chance that if these patents are Facebook property, the company could choose to defend them aggressively from any Google products that start to veer into similar territory.
This isn't the only dealmaking that Facebook has worked on with MOL Global in the past few months. In July, about a month after the Friendster patents were formally acquired, Facebook announced that it had partnered with MOL to make its Credits virtual currency, increasingly a part of the social-gaming experience on Facebook, more readily available in a handful of Asian countries.