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Google Businesses The Internet Patents

Google Seeking "FriendRank" Patent 80

theodp writes "In its just-published patent application for Network Node Ad Targeting, Google hatches plans for identifying the most influential of a circle of friends and providing this 'influencer' with 'financial incentives from advertisers in exchange for permission to display advertisements on the member's [social network] profile' (sound familiar, Jeremy?). Doing so will 'provide advertisers with the option of targeting either all members in the community or advertising only on the profile of the influencer, thereby targeting the entire community,' explains Google. Who says you can't buy friendship!"
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Google Seeking "FriendRank" Patent

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  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:32AM (#24059151)

    If your best friend will go with this, I think it's time to find a new friend.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jfclavette ( 961511 )

      Why ? If they offer you money to display ads, why not take it ? Is being paid to advertise a product completely immoral on Slashdot now ?

      • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:41AM (#24059239)

        Why ? If they offer you money to display ads, why not take it ? Is being paid to advertise a product completely immoral on Slashdot now ?

        There is a difference between merely advertising, and knowingly participating in a company's targeted manipulation of your friend to extract money.

        It's no different then a gold digger's behavior.

        • It's no different then a gold digger's behavior

          We want Adblock! We want Adblock!

          It's something that you need to have.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by girasquid ( 1234570 )
            He's got a point here, and this presents a simple solution:
            1) allow Google to pay you to display ads.
            2) Teach all your friends to install and use Adblock, thus ensuring they don't actually see the ads.
            3) Profit!
          • Yep, I don't remember seeing an ad banner in a long time on the Internet.

        • Getting paid to make a recommendation that you believe in, and fully disclosing the compensation, is one thing.

          Getting paid to make a recommendation that you wouldn't normally make is another, as is failing to disclose compensation.

          When I give a friend a Netflix referral code, for instance, it's because I recommend the service to people anyway, and I'm totally upfront that their using my code is going to ship me out a free disc from my queue. I don't consider this "being good"; I consider it the bare minimu

        • by garcia ( 6573 )

          There is a difference between merely advertising, and knowingly participating in a company's targeted manipulation of your friend to extract money.

          If you haven't already suggested that they run AdBlockPlus you aren't much of a friend anyway, are you?

        • It's no different then a gold digger's behavior.

          But if she's a great looking natural blonde, I don't think he'll mind all that much. ;-) The same might be true if Best Buy is having a great sale on last season's laptops and your friend has been looking for a deal.

          Absolutes are such sharp things, they cut tend to both ways.

        • I'm struggling to get a b&b a place on the web and unfortunately i've seen too many site's which want money for a link on some of the most horrible sites going. unfortunately googles site ranking depends to a large extent on links to determine the price of advertising.

          I only wish i knew enough people who would put a link to www.phelansguesthouse.com
          on their site without wanting a pound of flesh.

          The directories tend to either want large quantitys of cash to give a link, the worst for that so far wanted $

        • There is a difference between merely advertising, and knowingly participating in a company's targeted manipulation of your friend to extract money.

          Yeah, there is. Displaying ads is advertising. Nobody is making you or anybody else click an ad banner. And only you decide if you want a product or not. "Targeted manipulation" my ass. If, hypothetically speaking, one of your friends sees an ad through this system thats leads he or she to purchase a product, it was still said friends decision to make the purchase. You're really reaching here.

      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:48AM (#24059299) Journal

        Is being paid to advertise a product completely immoral on Slashdot now ?

        Friendship isn't supposed to be a commercial transaction.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
          It is when their selling used cars or insurance but, then of course they are not really friends, just people who use some else's trust for their own personal gain.

          It is hard to tell who would be the slimiest, so called friends sticking you with advertising or the googlites for patenting and delivering it.

          What next will google be patenting the offering of commissions on sales for supply positive reviews on crap products, where the sucker 'er' friend accepts the review and acknowledges the reviewer or may

        • Of course friendship isn't a commercial transaction. If I have to pay someone to be my friend or they only hang out with me because of the nice stuff I give them they aren't really my friend.

          However, being friends with someone doesn't mean you can't help them get good deals. If I buy a new laptop there's nothing wrong with offering my friends the first chance to buy the old one. If I use dreamhost there is nothing immoral about getting my friends to use my referral code so I get reimbursed when they purc

      • It's not like I ever see any ads anyway, so sign me up!
  • For those of us that like seeing our 'friends' beat the piss out of each other for out 'affections' ?
  • Viacom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davegravy ( 1019182 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:39AM (#24059223)
    Great. So now when Viacom sues Google they'll not only get viewership information, they'll know all the relationships between those viewers too.
  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:43AM (#24059255) Homepage

    For every innovative google algorithm there is an equal and opposite new type of spamming technique created.

    • Marketing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For every innovative google algorithm there is an equal and opposite new type of spamming technique created.

      It's called "marketing" - on the job interview. Never say "spam".

      A friend of mine was interviewing at a giant junk mail company. during the interview, they took him into this room that showed their "Products". He exclaimed, "I never seen so much junk mail in my life!"

      The interviewer, in a terse voice, "That's DIRECT MARKETING!"

      He still got the job.

      • The Direct Marketing Association is huge. They struggle with the reputation of junk mail, and they have seminars/workshops on how to handle this reputation. I work for a company that has several decent sized direct mail companies, and my boss went to their trade show. The keynote speech was about changing the public perception from that of junk mail to something less bad than junk mail. When my boss got back from the trade show, the first thing he said was "ok, we can't call it junk mail anymore."
    • by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @02:27PM (#24060649) Homepage

      It's not opposite, Google is an advertising company. That's what they do.

  • by grizdog ( 1224414 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:53AM (#24059349) Homepage
    Amway, Melaluccia, Mary Kay cosmetics, Tupperware, etc., etc. You make money off your friends by providing them with "useful stuff", in this case targeted ads. Yes, I realize, it's different, since you have to buy washing powder anyway, why not buy it from your neighbor, and no one "needs" these ads, but the ads wouldn't be there in the first place if they didn't pique people's interest.

    I think this could go a long way, although I sure hope my friends don't get into it.

    • Great, now we are going to have Google Parties. Like Candles, Tea and sex toys weren't bad enough.
  • I'm going to find Google's most influential plan hatcher and drown him in the combined tears of the world's geeks, collected in a giant pot with the letters "DON'T BE EVIL" stencilled on the outside.
    • See, people don't get that their slogan was meant to be ironic. It all makes sense once you know that.
    • And this is evil how?

      "Don't be evil" doesn't mean don't do things that annoy you personally or even annoy slashdot users. It means well don't be EVIL.

      Acting to restrict competition by creating incomprehensible and bug ridden file formats and protocols that lock in your customers while discouraging innovation is evil. That would be making money by knowingly making the world a worse place just so you can get money.

      On the other hand giving me the OPTION of making money by putting adds on my social networking

  • Oh. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So... Google plays favorites in group circles?

    I'm going to be offended if they don't choose me. "I'm a leader, not a follower. I promise!"
  • .. can't money buy you love?

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday July 04, 2008 @12:09PM (#24059491)

    ...for letting them use you to get to your friends? My guess would be thirty pieces of silver.

  • People with a lot of friends on social networking sites probably don't have all that much influence. These are people who agree to be friends with whomever asks them, and will spam people with friend requests. I see pages with "8,000 friends!", and think "uh, no. This guy does not not know 8,000 people personally or well enough to influence their decisions".

    What this promises to do is make people think "Wow, if I have lots of friends on my page, I can make some money!", so I can expect a marked increase

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
      People with a lot of friends on social networking sites probably don't have all that much influence. These are people who agree to be friends with whomever asks them, and will spam people with friend requests. I see pages with "8,000 friends!", and think "uh, no. This guy does not not know 8,000 people personally or well enough to influence their decisions".

      What this promises to do is make people think "Wow, if I have lots of friends on my page, I can make some money!", so I can expect a marked increase
    • yeah you'd need so me sort of sorting code that decided how influential a friend was to the various other friends, hmm i wonder if you could patent that...

  • Wait... Prior Art? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Comatose51 ( 687974 )
    IANAL so I don't know if this applies but Stanley Milgram's small world experiment [wikipedia.org] sounds very similar. This is where the 6 degrees of separation idea came from. Basically social networks consists of spokes and hubs. Hubs are basically popular people who knows everyone in their area and these hubs allow people to be connected with other people in other areas, ensuring that people are never separated by more than 6 hops. Think of these as routers but for people. Isn't Google's "influential" people the s
    • by davecb ( 6526 ) *

      This was a striking use of matrix mathematics back when I was in university in the '80s. The prof took our ramking sheets and created a influencer-influencee matrix and a measure of the connectedness of the group.

      Mind you, he had to puch the data on cards and show us the results the next day, but the algorithm he used was old hat even in thsoe days.

      --dave

    • I think it's in the advertising part but I might just be missing something.

      If that's it I agree this doesn't seem innovative enough on it's own to be protected by a patent but google needs to do this defensively so no one else gets a patent on the idea. At the very least the patent application provides proof of prior art.

  • The novel parts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @12:45PM (#24059793) Homepage Journal

    As usual, a one-paragraph description of a patent covers exactly the parts that are prior art without actually pointing out the new parts.

    The novel bits include:
    * Being able to advertise things based on the profile of your friends. You may have forgotten to put "skydiving" in your list of interests, but if a dozen of your friends also have "skydiving", you might be in the target market.

    * Saving money by advertising only to certain valuable people, not just those with interests but those who know a lot of others with those interests. Why pay for 1,000 ad impressions when 10 would do?

    Patents are hard to read, but I recommend skipping the abstract and the claims and going ahead to the description. You'll learn a lot more.

    • Patents are hard to read, but I recommend skipping the abstract and the claims and going ahead to the description. You'll learn a lot more.

      ...I though the claims were the part that actually mattered?

      • by jfengel ( 409917 )

        The description is crucial; the claims are just the specific of what they claim as novel. But the description has to tell how they do it, and in doing so usually does a much better job of telling you what it really is.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sir_eccles ( 1235902 )

        In a way you're right. The claims are important but it would be more correct to say "the claims of the granted patent are what matter".

        At this stage being an application, the claims are written as broadly as possible. It is likely that should it be granted the claims will be much narrower, possibly bringing in features only found in the description.

        When reading a claim you read it "in light of the description". Which means if you see a term in the claim, there is likely a paragraph or two in the descri

    • think about this, using skydiving as an example would you want to be chased around the internet by skydiving adverts just because you once declared an interest in it. Actually it could be worse a lot worse.

      Targeting ad's on the basis of your search words, seems reasonable you might actually be interested in some of what advertisers have to offer.

      going on to profile people and target individuals really isn't a welcome development.

      with google your not paying for ad impressions you pay for clicks and they can

  • by apok04 ( 630953 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @01:21PM (#24060111)
    Malcolm Gladwell talks about this concept in his book The Tipping Point [wikipedia.org]. Specifically, Google is looking for Mavens, the people that you go to for information. Mavens are the early adopters, and a circle of friends often relies on their opinions to determine whether or not to purchase a product. Marketers have been trying to find a way to specifically target Mavens for decades. I don't think that what Google is doing is very manipulative (since they are asking the Maven in the first place). I would assume that a Maven by nature would reject advertisements that he/she didn't agree with, or make comments about the ones he/she likes or doesn't like on their personal page anyways.
  • that I feel really glad I've never registered for any community site, nor watched anything more than home videos on YouTube. I also avoid blogs, and price comparison sites. The only IM I use is jabber and that runs from my server.
    Surely there are other people around who saw all this shit coming ?
  • My ass. Software patents are evil, period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KermodeBear ( 738243 )

      As true as that may be, if Google doesn't apply for a patent, then some patent troll might just pop up a year later and sue Google for a bazillion dollars. I'm sure that the engineers at Google feel the same way you do about software patents; they just need to do things like this to protect themselves from a lawsuit.

    • Did you actually think about this at all before you posted? If you did maybe you can explain how google applying for a patent on this makes the world a worse place?

      It's not like google failing to apply for software patents would make the law go away. It would just let someone else who ws more likely to enforce them get the patents.

  • I just checked Facebook and MySpace and both already have advertising on their pages (probably somewhat based on your profile). What's the difference with adding advertisement on those popular profiles? they already have advertisements on them! That Tom dude on MySpace is gonna make a ton, though :-)
  • This is not a new idea.

    As soon as there was email there were schemes from companies to "sign up' your friends, and for every friend that joins, you get a month of free service, or an additional entry into some lotto, or some such incentive.

    What follows, is I ask my friends nicely not to do that anymore. If they persist when you get a new email address, they do not get it (and you likely block them in the meantime). Which leads to loss of communication, which leads to them not really being a close friend (wh

  • If I have profile on facebook, they have all the power to display all the ads they want on my profile, without my permission. And they do.

    The only entity in position to sell ad space of those "influential" friends is Facebook.

    It is really stupid to involve users into this.

  • Why not just insert your ad to the popular user's profile without asking him? Or even better, why not insert ad to every profile page no matter if it is from the popular user or not? Or even even better, why we don't insert ad on every single page on the site? Oh, wait, it's the way Internet works for decades.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why not? Because a well targeted ad is worth 1000 (or more) crappy ones. For a long time slashdot showed me ads for IBM mainframes and microsoft products, neither of which I use, so it was just wasted ad space. If, however, I had "managed IBM mainframes" or "MSCE" in my LinkedIn profile, then that kind of ad would make sense.

  • This reminds me of the questions and issues that rose from Multi Level Marketing, tapping into Social Networking skills of members to bring benefits to the Mothership and its crew.
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    There's no way this method is vulnerable to fraud! It's totally solid!

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