Facebook has recently been granted a patent for “Giving gifts and displaying assets in a social network environment” in a bid to retain its dominance in the social network scene despite the rise of group buying and e-commerce sites.
Patent number 7,970,657, originally filed by Jared Morenstern back in April 2007, describes social gift giving as “a purchase that can be made known to participating parties as well as others connected to them on the site.” It will not only facilitate and arrange purchases, but also record all the information, and display (more like broadcast) the receipt of the gift to the recipient and the sender.
While the patent does not necessarily prevent other social networks from offering gift-giving features, it will definitely make them cautious as to avoid a lawsuit.
Here’s the abstract of the patent from ZDNet:
A system and method is described for giving gifts via a social network and displaying icons representing assets that have been acquired via the social network. In various embodiments, the assets include real assets, digital assets, and virtual assets. Digital assets that have been acquired via the social network environment may also be displayed. In some embodiments, the assets are received as gifts or in trade from another user of the social network environment.
As ZDNet points out, this comes on the heels of shutting down Facebook Gifts, the service that allows its users to send virtual gifts to their friends that appear on the recipient’s profile, which needless to say has failed to launch. It seems as though with the new patent, Facebook now encourages users to use third-party apps on Facebook for giving and receiving gifts, with the social network acting as an intermediary.
That’s the very nature of social networks to begin with — interaction. Buyers on a social network will want acknowledgment of the purchase and also want the recipient to know about the gift. Clever move for the world’s biggest social network.