Yahoo Is Out To Burn Down The Web

You may just think of Yahoo as a crumbling facade vomiting money, talent and resources, ruining all of its most prestigious assets. (See: Flickr, Delicious, etc.) But, worse, it's now trying to murder-suicide the web.

Yahoo slapped Facebook with a patent lawsuit yesterday, likely designed to get money or options out of The Blue before it goes public. And, worse, it could use that same patent portfolio to try to go after, well, just about any and every company on the web.

Yahoo is claiming that Facebook violates 10 of its patents. And as Mark Cuban points out, it may have a case that Facebook's ability to create a personalised news feed is derivative of Yahoo's My.Yahoo.Com. He only makes this case, however, to point out how ludicrous software patents are. Yahoo is essentially saying that Facebook — from advertising, to the personalised pages, to privacy — is built on the back of 10 software patents.

It's a preposterous notion. Facebook is built on its own unique codebase, just like any other site that caters to you as an individual has been. Which is, at this point, pretty much all of them. The idea that Zuck and Co have stolen something from Yahoo would mean that Yahoo owns personalisation outright, the end.

Maybe the most damning take on this of all that I've seen is this Wired post by Andy Baio that positively eviscerates Yahoo's motives. (Disclosure: Andy is a very old friend and former co-worker).

Baio was a Yahoo employee, who went to work at the company after it purchased his startup calendaring company, Upcoming. And while there, against his better judgement, he helped the company build its patent portfolio. As he notes:

But Yahoo assured us that their patent portfolio was a precautionary measure, to defend against patent trolls and others who might try to attack Yahoo with their own holdings. It was a cold war, stockpiling patents instead of nuclear arms, and every company in the valley had a bunker full of them.

But that's not how it turned out, obviously. And although Baio's patents aren't being used in the suit, he's penned a thoughtful, incriminatory indictment of Yahoo's actions and software patents in general that's well worth a read. [WIRED]


Comments

    Excellent. Hopefully soon this whole software patent mess will get so big that some changes will be forced on everyone.

    If I invent something and get a patent, anyboy who uses it must pay me. What is wrong with this? This is the capatilist way. Oh so it will hurt facebook, so what!!!!! they have stiffed enough people and companies in the past.

    Maybe it is time to revisit patent law, but it shouldn't be done through uninformed or misinformed bloggers who have an axe to grind.

    If you carve, say, a sail board using hand tools and I make one using thermoplastic extrusion does that mean I'm allowed to copy your design?

    If Facebook is breaching patents then eff Facebook. Which is exactly the same the same logic giz applies to Sammy and Apple's patents.

    If you design two things using two different methods (different code) then its not copyright. If facebook have cut and paste yahoos code then sure its copyright but just because it does similar things does not make it copyright. I mean the guy who made the first surfboard would be racking it in if this was the case.

      That's not exactly how it works. Code is near irrelevant. You can reverse engineer a product by using a clean room, but even then it can be really challenging to subvert patent control. Patents aren't about code, they're about function.

      Think of "Slide to unlock" from Apple, that's one of the things they're suing Samsung about (yes, Apple has a patent on that most basic of human inventions that is actually sourced from the real world.)

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