U.S. Patent No. 8,171,128 — “Communicating a newsfeed of media content based on a member’s interactions in a social network environment” – Filed on August 11, 2006, and granted on May 1, 2012.
Facebook patents the News Feed, via ZDNet.
The question then becomes: will they use the patent offensively or defensively against other social networks that display news feeds in much the same way (eg., Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.).
Reading the patent more closely, you’ll see Facebook discusses how to let users see certain status updates, pictures, links to videos, and even actions friends take. The social networking giant describes keeping a profile of each person on the social network in a database, identifying relationships between said users, generating “stories” based on the connections, and then creating a News Feed for each user.
Last but certainly not least, Facebook watches what actions the viewer takes in response to the stories (such as Liking, Sharing, or commenting), and then uses that information to serve more stories. It’s also noted that content can come from outside the social network and that users can change preference settings to filter in or out what stories they see.