Should Yahoo Own Social Search and Rank in a Web 2.0 World?
[Disclaimer: I am the Evangelist and CEO of Zooomr]
Flickr Interestingness Rankings Patents Released � SEO by the SEA: William Slawski over at SEO by the Sea tips us off to two new patents in the Web 2.0 world this week. The patents are by Yahoo! and include US Patent Application 20060242139, Interestingness ranking of media objects and US Patent 20060242178, Media object metadata association and ranking.
From the abstract:
“Media objects, such as images or soundtracks, may be ranked according to a new class of metrics known as “interestingness.” These rankings may be based at least in part on the quantity of user-entered metadata concerning the media object, the number of users who have assigned metadata to the media object, access patterns related to the media object, and/or a lapse of time related to the media object.”
So if I read this correctly, it would sound to me like Yahoo would not like anyone else to be able to aggregate user activity around media to provide rank.
The biggest problems I have with this patent is that they 1. incorporate community user activity into Yahoo! ownership and 2. What right does Yahoo have to control how outside non Yahoo communities choose to highlight and promote their media? Theoretically if I’m digg, or reddit, or Zooomr (oh yeah, we are Zooomr) or any other site that would use “quantity of user-entered metadata” to come up with how media is ranked we could be in violation of Yahoo’s patent.
Serving up a selection of interesting photos based on the fact that a bunch of your users on your site like the photos as evidenced by the quantitiy of favorites, comments, voting, views, activity, where it’s been blogged, whatever, ought not belong to any one company.
Each community ought to feel free to aggregate their user data accordingly to highlight and show photos, news, videos, sound files, etc. on their site however the hell they want.
At Zooomr we are currently working on a rating system to highlight great photos on Zooomr. These great photos will largely be determined by activity as evidenced on the site by our users. We have no idea what Flickr’s secret formula magic donkey interestingness algorithm contains but it seems antithetical to the idea of user supported communities that for us to build our own for our own community that we could be threatened with a lawsuit for violating Yahoo’s exclusive right to rank user data.
At Zooomr today we have a feature where we rank users by how many times they are people tagged. We call it “most famous” is this rank based on metadata? Sure. But why should we not be able to rank our own users and their data any way we want for our community? Why should anyone be able to own how you slice and dice and rank community in a Web 2.0 world? Each community should figure this out on their own and give their users what they want without any one company owning this.
The second patent that Yahoo got was for metadata:
“Metadata may be associated with media objects by providing media objects for display, and accepting input concerning the media objects, where the input may include at least two different types of metadata. For example, metadata may be in the form of tags, comments, annotations or favorites. The media objects may be searched according to metadata, and ranked in a variety of ways.”
So maybe I’m totally off on this one again but it sounds to me that Yahoo again would not like competing social networks to be able to search by mulitiple user generated inputs like tags or comments or annotations or descriptions etc.
I think these two patents suck.
I’m sure I’ll get a lot of crap over this because Flickr can do no evil, blah, blah, blah, but no one company should own the right over other communities that they have no control over to rank and organize their data any way they want. User generated data doesn’t even belong to Yahoo! in the first place, it belongs to users of a given community and every community ought to be able to share their best works of media within their own community without having to worry about running afoul of a Yahoo patent.