Friendster Gets Social Network Patent

Struggling social networking site Friendster received a boost Thursday after it learned that it had been awarded a patent for social networking technology. Founder Jonathan Abrams, who has since left the company, developed the methods described in the patent in 2003.

Called "A System, Method and Apparatus for Connecting Users in an Online Computer System Based on Their Relationships within Social Networks," the patent seems to give the site the rights to methods used to describe degrees of separation between users.

According to Friendster, the patent covers methods to calculate and display this separation, as well as providing a way for the user to act upon it. It claims that the invention spurred the uptick now occurring in the social networking industry.

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"This patent is the first of many expected to be awarded to Friendster over the next several years and underscores the company's ongoing commitment to innovation in social networking," president Kent Lindstrom said.

The company, one of the first social networking sites on the Web, has struggled to keep pace with competitor MySpace. Even Friendster's president was at a loss to explain why the company had seemed to stand still as MySpace passed it by, telling Red Herring "I have no idea why it happened. For a number of reasons we had trouble scaling for almost a whole year."

However, Friendster is not giving up on the U.S. market. Infused with capital and recently finished with a site redesign that has significantly improved loading times, the company says it plans to refocus on gaining lost share this year.

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