Today Facebook was awarded a patent for “ranking search results based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of a social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation”. The patent, which was first filed by in 2004, emphasizes that Facebook has been working on a number of algorithms to improve their search results, one of which is a tool that Google employs in their own search results: the number of clicks.
The emphasis of this search patent is also on social in that individuals are “within a predetermined degree of separation”. This would probably be the single differentiation from Google who uses other tools to track clicks and repeat searches queries. While Facebook has a long way to go in improving their search, it has become a common belief that social search, and more importantly, the feed, hold the key to unlock the next search revolution.
Facebook also believes that this could be the answer, which why they are protecting their assets with patents such as this new one. While Facebook may not necessarily have the intent to pursue legal action against competitors (aside from the recent spate of trademark suits), Twitter and others can now technically not use clicks combined with degrees of separation to determine the relevance of information, without exposing themselves to this new risk.