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Software Patents

Evolving the Social Network 165

arantius writes "An article on BottomQuark points to a new development: Here's a story about a new start-up Huminity, referred to as the technology of the year. The software they produce combines instant messaging, chat, and social networking. After burning through over $30k of personal funds, the team has now raised millions for their company. We've heard about Friendster recently, but somehow this seems more interesting." Jamie adds: Social networking was in the news recently because this patent apparently covers much of it. It was bought for $700K by the two underdogs and may be used to beat up on Friendster. Don't worry, the guy who wrote Slashdot's friend-of-friend code doesn't think we're affected :)
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Evolving the Social Network

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  • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:58PM (#7467912) Journal
    How can this be more interesting that Friensdter? A network of friends that cost the companies millions of dollars in bandwidth and java development but returns zero profits!

    No but seriously, is this DOT COM ERA part 2?

    Tired of spammers? Kill them all []! Let the irony of this sig sort 'em out.
    • si20 won't solve the problem of spam, it will just keep people who weren't going to buy junk from spam from reading the solicitations for junk. Yet, you still come up with a non-solution that flat doesn't work. If you want to provide a real service, gimme a reply, I'll explain it, but not if you don't wanna hear.
      • Offtopic trollish reply to my sig? Nice, i'll bite.

        si20 [] uses Spam Assassin as it's filtering technology. So you are basically saying some of the best perl mongers out there are wasting their time and that their solution doesn't work.

        Nice one.
        • yeah, that's about all, and I'll continue to say it until somebody figures out that my solution works, and it's worth it. I was against blacklists, and I'm against spamassasin. Why? because both have a inherent problem of blocking email that is perfectly fine, and do nothing to give a response to the spammer crowd. The spammer who sends 500 emails, and gets 100 blocked by spam assasin, doesn't know they got blocked, and stored in a junk folder, they still transversed the network.

          Dns lookups of the hosts
    • No but seriously, is this DOT COM ERA part 2?

      Shhhh! Let them get their VC. Don't be jealous!
  • What? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by eurleif ( 613257 )
    And exactly what is Social Networking? Nothing linked to from here seems to explain, at least without paying Business 2.0 for a subscription.

    • Social networking is just a fancy term for "meeting people". I'm guessing they had to call it something interesting in order to get funding.
      • More than that really. You want to google up for "scale-free networks" and, perhaps, "Axelrod's Model of Social Influence"; the term 'social network' is actually in scientific papers these days.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... m ['on.' in gap]> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:00PM (#7467955) Journal
    And, for /.ers, we'll have anti-social networking (esp. for the gnaa,, penisbird, and tubgirl trolls :-)
  • Some network (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:01PM (#7467961) Journal
    Apparently, the only social network they recognize is the one amongst windows users. Well, I guess there's always slashdot...
    • Apparently, the only social network they recognize is the one amongst windows users. Well, I guess there's always slashdot...

      Yeah because we all know how socially adept Slashdotters are...

      Half of us probably looked at the term "social networking" and were hoping that it was some sort of geekspeak for sex. :-)

      • Half of us probably looked at the term "social networking" and were hoping that it was some sort of geekspeak for sex. :-)

        Finally an interface where slower throughput is good...too bad firmware revisions don't last too long!
      • Half of us probably looked at the term "social networking" and were hoping that it was some sort of geekspeak for sex

        Well actually, have you seen friendster? I'm not sure if it's much more then an elaborate dating network...

        And I keep getting ads for "Hot asian girls" on their site. Hello, I'm married, not interested...
    • wine anyone?
    • Apparently, the only social network they recognize is the one amongst windows users.

      Who needs friends anyway.

  • there doesnt seem to be a linux version available, I guess this means that linux users have all of the friends and IM they could ever need... seriously though, it really isnt too much more work to make a linux frontend to a network backend. I guess we will just have to wait for the next major version of gaim.
    • well they were developing the product on their own personal income. Now that they hav some serious VC I am sure we can expect at least an OS X version :) if not a linux one.
  • performance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaan ( 88626 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:02PM (#7467981)
    If Huminity can beat the performance (or lack of it) for services like Friendster, I'd give it my vote. I think I have 14 people in my "friends" list on Friendster, and a Personal Network of nearly 400,000, and it is almost entirely impossible to do just about anything within the service. Sometimes, I can't even login without a browser timeout. Huminity might be able to do really well if they can get decent performance, or even just perceived performance through the use of caching tricks, saved data, etc.
    • . Sometimes, I can't even login without a browser timeout. Try [] Similar to Friendster except it actually works.
      • Re:performance (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dspisak ( 257340 ) works because its database servers have not yet come close to getting 1M+ users on it.

        Any database backend works at that small a scale, its once you go past the .5M-1.0M+ range where database backends start to become really important for these kinds of sites.

        • Your arbitrary 1M limit only applies to poorly written web applications.
          • Show me a website that is database driven and has to figure out multipathed connections between all parts of it, in real-time, while users are able to logon and mess around with their information and add/remove users from their ring of friends.

            Not to mention the mountain of emails such a system generates notifing users when someone has posted on their profile, or requested to be added, etc.

            And then you have the massive amounts of images such a site has to store and quickly serve up since the point of such
    • Friendster has had a lot of growing pains once they got past the 1M+ mark. is like Friendster but has more features and seems to work better then Friendster. It also works faster then Friendster. However I think they are only now reaching the .5M mark.
    • The key problem with Friendster is the proliferation of fake people in the network.

      I have exactly four friends on my list. One of them is mated to "Strongbad" as a friend -- which nets me a personal network of nearly 9,000 people.

      The other three are stubs off of me.
      • The next question to follow then is:

        How do they guarantee someone setting up an account is real?

        One method would be to let someone use their credit card as a way of authorizing. Not actually charge anything, just doing a check on the name and address that way. You could then lockout people with multiple cards making fake accounts by only letting one name and one card auth...further different cards under the same name would be stopped from allowing to reg.

        But you will still have to deal with the very seri
    • <i>Sometimes, I can't even login without a browser timeout. Huminity might be able to do really well if they can get decent performance, or even just perceived performance through the use of caching tricks, saved data, etc.</i>

      Well, I noticed one advantage over friendster right away.

      The Huminity download is an .exe file. Is it even a web (http) app? A plugin?

      Why is a .exe necessary in this case? Can it do something that a well-tuned web app & well-tuned datbase cannot do?

      Most of these ot
  • to the exceedingly anti-social. Don't we deserve some programming effort too?
  • Dork out (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    With cell phones more available to teenagers, and the teenagers that get em being cool... The number of people a single person has contact with is greater.

    People have a larger pool of people to interact with now than say 20 years ago. Especially with population growth.

    The cultures that exist are more conforming, and reach more people across a larger area.

    You can totally become a statistics nerd charting the reasons that there are skateboarding chicks now, but 10 years ago, skateboarders were skatefags.
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info.devinmoore@com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:06PM (#7468043) Homepage Journal
    How does knowing whose friend is whose help me make friends? Really, it is just a complicated, expensive way of saying, "here are some people. Maybe you'll get along, maybe you won't, but your friend knows them."
    In reality, if I don't have many friends, I won't have many friends of friends, and if I have a lot of friends, why would I need this service? Therefore, it will end up a network of 1:1 connections.
    • You assume that the only friends your friends have are you. In fact, people tend to have a few friends who don't know each other, and eventually you're likey to run into one of the 'hub' people who have a ton of friends, thus connecting you to a broad range of folks.

      Not to say there's any particular _use_ in this, I just don't think you're right claiming it'll be all 1-1 connections.
    • I disagree... at least in theory. If I am a rather introverted person (as I actually am), but my friends aren't, then I will have access to many more people than I would normally through my own behaviour. I'm not saying I'm antisocial, I'm saying I'm introverted -- there are some important differences. My extroverted friends shouldn't really mind if I piggyback on their outgoing nature in this way, because it's a hell of a lot easier than introducing me through more conventional means.
      • Would your friends' friends actually want to be pestered by a total stranger? Worse yet, by someone who (no offense) is too socially inept to make his own friends to start with?

        E.g., let's start thinking from a real life example.

        One guy who'd probably be on my list of "friends", by sheer virtue that he's family, is actually the worst kind of _extrovert_. He can talk for hours on end, but he talks only about his CS games or about what he's done at work in his EJB project. I find him actually _more_ boring
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well, in the PGP Web of Trust model, the idea is that the more people who you know have signed a stranger's key, the more likely you are to believe that key is correct. The network isn't useless; it gives you a subjective measure of the likelihood of an identity being correct.

      Then there's that old AIDS commercial. (Weird way of putting it -- makes it sound like someone wants to sell AIDS.) "When you sleep with someone, you're sleeping with everyone they've slept with, and everyone they've slept with, e

    • Really, it is just a complicated, expensive way of saying, "here are some people. Maybe you'll get along, maybe you won't, but your friend knows them.

      Will it tell you who to avoid? I've always found this to be far more useful than who to associate with (I can work that out for myself thanks)

    • There are several social implications of public dispaly of friends that I do not want to get into which go far beyond saying 'your friend knows them.'

      Some of the useful things you can do with this kind of service:

      * You go to Alice's party, and meet Bob. You and Bob hit it off, but because both of you had a few beers you forget to exchange contact information. Alice's friends page to the rescue - you can message Bob.

      * You love circus peanuts and want to find other people willing to loudly declare their sa
  • is the reality of the product they have created?

    Is it all the innovative compared to other solutions?

    Flash in the pan if you ask me.

    Blogzine []
    Fortress of Insanity []
  • friend of friend (Score:2, Informative)

    by edrugtrader ( 442064 )
    isn't the friend of friend code just a single SQL query?

    restricting access to data reports based on patents as a business model is dumb. actually, i think i'm going to go patent that now.
  • Hasn't some fairly high-profile company (MS ?) recently dumped online forums as too risky to have on their books ? In an ever-more-litigious society you have to wonder how it'll pan out if it turns out 'drugrunners-R-us' have been using you as a common carrier. Are you really a common carrier ? Really ? Sure ?

    The problem with "recommend a friend" is that it's too close to "recommend a fiend" for comfort. You really have no web of trust - it's all what X says about A says about C ... K.

    I'm just about the m
    • ...if this decision [] is upheld in higher court.
    • Hasn't some fairly high-profile company (MS ?) recently dumped online forums as too risky to have on their books ? In an ever-more-litigious society you have to wonder how it'll pan out if it turns out 'drugrunners-R-us' have been using you as a common carrier. Are you really a common carrier ? Really ? Sure ?

      I thought a company was not liable for unmoderated forums. Can someone clarify this.

      In any case, there is always the official reason of why a company does something, and there is always an unoffici

  • Patent is bogus (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cameldrv ( 53081 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:17PM (#7468161)
    I really don't think Friendster is going to have a problem, as it is virtually the same product as Sixdegrees was in 1997, except Sixdegrees didn't have the dating angle.
  • It seems these guys built a hell of software and it works agazing. Looks like after several years of having nothing interesting as a successor to ICQ, Napster at all... these guys come. GOOD LUCK and bring a version to Linux! :)
  • A social network is nothing more than a group of people. Well, at least that's what it sounds like HERE. []

    Prove me wrong.
  • Something else (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bigjnsa500 ( 575392 )
    What bothers me is that all this technology is slowly forcing us to stay inside, away from human contact.

    Whatever happened to taking the dog for a walk and talking to woman? Do men and women of today feel the only way to talk is hiding in some online forum? Are we slowly turning into a milky white skin-toned people?

    • Are we slowly turning into a milky white skin-toned people?

      No, I'll never turn into a Brit.
      It's olive skin for me!

      [ducks] ;)

      P.S.- parent is a troll- treat it accordingly.
  • No thanks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomzyk ( 158497 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:26PM (#7468287) Journal
    1. I've never heard of a piece of software that does this sort of thing, and wonder why it would ever exist in the first place (other than just for the novelty of it).

    2. Even if it is just for fun, why are they charging you to search through it?
    All features of the Huminity software are completely free apart from the "Search Path" using free-text, which is provided at an economical yearly subscription price of $28.

    3. If they can't even create a website that can be viewed in anything other than the latest M$ browser [ditto for their DEMO], I don't think I'd trust their software running on my computer anways.
    • They ask for the $28 because doing a search like that requires serious CPU time as their interdependant network of connections grows. This is something that probably doesn't scale linearly and goes instead as a n log n function of some sort.

      I could be wrong however.

      As for #1, its because no one has done this before really. Sure some websites have tried to pull this off but it really has to be an app on the users system to help make the complexity of the queries and the complexities of the chat features wo
  • by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:27PM (#7468306)
    "Navigating 6 degrees of communication with Huminity's Technology of the Year represents a complete paradigm shift regarding the nature of the net and human social interaction. Exploding the boundaries of what we've know as 'community' thus far in human evolution..."

    Admit it, you miss Katz, just a little bit.

  • A real online "social network" would not run on a central server.

    A real online "social network" would also allow you to integrate friends lists from places like SlashDot, ICQ and even use lists of mobile phone numbers. And use them in a way that does not give anyone one person or company access to your social network's structure.
  • Hmmmm, replace the word "database" with the word "list". Don't the lists from various trading cartels over the centuries constitute prior art? I mean, if nothing else, the mafia should have a much strong claim for keeping databases of "friends" and their "friends".
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jamiefaye ( 44093 ) <jamie&fentonia,com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @06:15PM (#7468865) Homepage
      Drug dealing has followed this protocol ever since the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914. The diference is that the database is decentralized and either committed to human memory or stored in an encrypted form.

      Basically, to form a new hookup you must be introduced to a dealer by someone whom the dealer already trusts. The edges of the networks are called "runners", and can be found on streetcorners and in dance clubs. Retail and wholesale distribution follows a similar pattern.

      When the protocol breaks down, particularly due to personnel security issues, bullets fly. Otherwise it works pretty well!
  • Download vs Web (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zetes ( 110457 )
    The thing I like about Friendster is that there is no download and it is accessible from anywhere - doesn't matter what software you have, what browser you use, what OS you are using, or most importantly where you are when you want to check your friends list. If Huminity could have it all on the web (with Java chat clients like all the other chat services provide), they would get my vote. Until then, I will stick to the service for which I don't have to do anything to use but sign up.

  • Reminds me of sixdegrees.

    The problem with these systems is that the only work if all your friends, and friend's friends are playing.

    This will be successful when some service such as Yahoo or MSN provide the functionality to their already huge memberships.
  • At least it is not in perpetual beta like some other networking idea....
  • Quote from their website: " We believe the Internet's greatness is the interaction it brings between people " Spend a few days browsing forums, and even post to a few, and you quickly realize there are a lot of people out there you have no need to get to know better. If you need the processing power of a gigahertz processor to make friends, you are in a world of trouble once you step away from your computer. Just MHO.
  • YHBT. YHL. HAND. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @06:12PM (#7468842) Homepage Journal

    This very same story was posted to Kuro5hin's [] queue about a week ago -- right down to the ridiculous "social networking has evolved" meme -- and voted down as a blatant advertising plug. Below is a copy of my post to the topic while it was still in the voting queue; it's still appropriate today:

    From Huminity's site:

    Contacts are notified by a one-time e-mail notification about their inclusion in the Huminity network. We see it as our obligation to notify contacts of their inclusion in the network and allow them at their own will to be delisted. Though this item is sometimes considered wrongly as SPAM by users and contacts, we think that it would be inconceivable NOT to notify contacts about their inclusion, even by their friends.

    "It's inconceivable to us that people wouldn't want to know about our valuable service!" How very self-serving. Couple this with the fact that:

    • You have to download a custom application whose behavior and security implications are unknown, and,
    • You must provide contact data for five people before you're allowed to browse the network.
    And you begin to see why I'm seriously disinterested in trying it out.

    When evaluating services like this, I want to see who's already there. I want to do this without calling attention to myself or anyone else. If I like what I see, then I'll participate further -- fill out a profile, hook up to already-registered friends, tell other people about it, etc. Forcing me to offer up five contacts as tribute violates this principle.

    Friendster gets this part right: You can participate as much or as little as you want, and Friendster contacts your unregistered friends only when you explicitly direct it to. In this respect, Friendster operates as a service, whereas Huminity has the patina of yet another email harvesting operation, in the same light as those someone-has-a-crush-on-you sites.

    No sale, guys.


    • those someone-has-a-crush-on-you sites I haven't found those yet. Please tell me how to discover who has a crush on me!
    • "yet another email harvesting operation, in the same light as those someone-has-a-crush-on-you sites."

      I always hated those things so much when I found out how they harvested email addresses. You don't really get a chance to opt-in because your friends do it for nice of them. And you can't really opt-out because by then they've already sold your email address to someone else.

  • New? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lifebouy ( 115193 )
    I've known about (and used, once or twice) Huminity for well over a year. The basic idea rocks. However: 0. No chatroom. 1. Useless info on most people 2. Doesn't have the critical mass of users to truly be useful. Finding paths to groups of users can be a pain. 3. Windoze only, last I looked. That said, I'd love to see a OSS version of this. Perhaps built around GnuPG so that messages could be encrypted and your web of trust shows up as your "network." This kind of graphical display of webs of trust would
    • In fact, PGP stands out as a good example of prior art. it has databases, ala keyservers. Email verification of relationships is arguable, but only from the standpoint of was your keysigning accomplished via email. Obviously, this is so for some since people attach PGP signatures to their emails, and therefore prior art. The web of trust itself is the relationship part. So it's either prior art, or its not covered by the patent. So my idea works either way.
  • by 3rdParty ( 719962 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @06:23PM (#7468946)
    is internet liquor, something that makes you and other people seem wittier and more atractive online than you or they are in real life. You could call it eGoggles, and make it like a forum, only allow people to select questions and responses from a list of quotes by really witty people, and avatars of really attractive people. Then you might have something.
  • by ChozCunningham ( 698051 ) <[moc.mahgninnuczohc] [ta] [gro.todhsals]> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @06:36PM (#7469115) Homepage
    For context here's a few thingies that offer that friend-network action: Friendster []
    No download, runs anywhere. Kinda simplistic, users stop logging in.

    Tribe []
    No download, runs anywhere. More nerdy, uemphasis on freedom of use, discussion groups. Supports lots of pictures.

    MySpace []
    No download, runs anywhere. Supports restricted blogs, popularity contests, 10 pics. Does not emphasize actual RL friendship dynamics.

    Friend of a Friend []
    Open standard for creting friendster-like network apps. Used by PeepAgg [] to build OSS system.

    There are more, and I'd love to see replies with links to this rapidly growing class of services/apps, with brief descriptions attached. Thanks

    • >There are more, and I'd love to see replies with links to this rapidly growing class of services/apps, with brief descriptions attached. Thanks

      Then you should check this list []. Already quite big and growing fast...

  • So I read "the team has now raised millions for their company." Yeah right, that's why they are living in t-shirt hell. []
  • Six Degrees had a good thing going for a while, but they messed it up by rewarding people to lie about the number of contacts they had.

    Initially I had recruited a number of colleagues, former bosses, and former professors to that network, but I really felt embarassed of having done so after SixDegrees started giving away CD players and prizes for expanding ones network. Eventually, many people started listing thousands of worthless contacts in their profiles and the network became completely useless as a p

  • Gee, if I don't already have 5 contacts I can't register and be part of the network? Great. Thanks. That will help me find friends. Jerks.
  • Wow ... imagine, using computers to connect people to each other!

    I wonder if, at any time in the last 25 years, they've seen a BBS.
  • I don't know if I want to be this available. Do I really want a friend of my cousin's friend to IM me in the middle of some project to ask if I like Justin Timberlake too? There's a reason I have Windows messenger configured to ask me before somebody is allowed to add me to their buddy list and contact me.

    I suspect that this is going to end up dominated by 16-year old girls and the 23-year old guys who used to hang out at the Dairy Queen hoping to meet them.

    Oh, and the 54-year old men who like to pretend
  • I've often wished I could add a small note (ala ebay feedback or slashdot url) of why I made someone a friend or foe.

    This friend/foe system would be far more usable if there were some way of knowing why I made someone a pal two years ago, and if they continue to deserve that 'honor'.

    In addition, it would probably benefit those who are foed to know what the reason was. Like "teamhasnoi - foed for making fun of republicans". I would then see that republicans still have no sense of humor, and act according

  • by phutureboy ( 70690 ) on Friday November 14, 2003 @02:41AM (#7472140) Homepage
    (I can't take credit for this. My brother wrote it)

    I think I've come up with a system which will
    solve Friendster's database problems:

    First you get 2500 chimpanzees, and arrange them
    in a 50x50 grid. Each monkey is sitting in front
    of a chute which dispenses ripe bananas. Whenever
    the Friendster server needs to retrieve a piece
    of data, bananas will be dispensed across the
    grid in a pattern that represents the parameters
    of that database query. Monkeys who do not get
    bananas will begin flinging feces at the monkeys
    who do get them, and an array of overhead
    cameras, connected to an advanced video analysis
    system, will extrapolate the vectors and
    distribution of said feces.

    In another room, these vectors are fed directly
    into the cerebral cortex of a stoned teenager in
    a Slipknot T-shirt, who is playing Excitebike.
    His NES, which has been augmented with
    sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms
    and has achieved consciousness, uses the input
    from the game controller to infer the appropriate
    response to the database query, and
    telepathically transmits this information to Miss

    At this point the user will be prompted to call
    Miss Cleo, who will tell them the answer in
    highly inauthentic Jamaican patois. This will
    cost $2.99 per minute, but there will be several
    Kingston rude bwoys standing by Miss Cleo who
    will roll 3d6 every time someone calls. If the
    result is less than Miss Cleo's saving throw, the
    rude bwoys will gang-rape her at knifepoint.

    I think this will be a much more efficient system
    than whatever the fuck they're doing now.
  • Ungh. Anything with "Click here! It's FREE!" (in blatant colours) and wants to chart my social network makes me very suspicious...

    No matter how ingenious and useful the technology is, it won't get my -- and probably quite a few other users' -- trust before it is presented in a more credible manner. And before it gets the trust of a considerable user base, the system isn't considerably useful, now is it? (ok, so i know the system already has a considerable user base, but so does Kazaa, and look what happe

  • I have gone on to create a basic [] FOAF-file []. That's Semantic Web vaporware project. Well, it's not vaporware, since it works, and it is pretty cool. There's even SlashFoaf [], so create your FOAF RDF today!
  • 1999 dotcom, four years too late.
  • These bastards emailed everyone in my contacts to spam them about joining their service. They neither asked me nor told me.

    Not just uncool, but lame and unprofessional, and in some cases this was more than a little embarassing.

You can do more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word. - Al Capone