Facebook isn’t a late-comer to the location based social networking boom. It has been thinking about it for years and it’s just been granted a wide-reaching patent that could wipe newcomers off the social notworking map.
Bnet, which broke the story, says the patent covers “a method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location” and the the location is found using a “GPS Identifier”. From the sounds of it, it could become a huge patent troll – if it wants to.
Foursquare for example is already established in the US and picking up serious momentum in the UK. If Zuckerberg throws his lawyers around there could be some major drama on the way.
TechCrunch mentions that “checkins” – the process of alerting friends to where you are – is broadly covered. In the patent it states: “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.”
Many were shocked that newcomers Foursquare and Gowalla beat Facebook to the location game. Has Facebook assigned a team of legal eagles to make sure it has the drop on rivals – just as it launched Places?
We have no idea if Facebook plans to throw the book at rivals. Knowing the aggression of Facebook’s legal team, however, upstarts and competitors must be sleeping with one eye open.
Zuckerberg is the silent threat. While the tech press, privacy outlets, security firms and PR agencies too have been highlighting the worrying monopoly Facebook has been accumulating, the public pressure and anger has been directed squarely at Google while users continue to offer all their most private – and valuable – data to Facebook willingly. There’s no strong-arming here.