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AN OVERBROAD PATENT ON SOCIAL NETWORKING - This application from Renren (China) seeks to patent the idea of...initiating social network services between two users based on contact information! 10 minutes of your time can help narrow US patent applications before they become patents. Follow @askpatents on twitter to help.

QUESTION - Have you seen anything that was published before Dec 20, 2011 that discusses:

  • Initiating a “social networking service” between a first and second user based on the contact information of the second user

If so, please submit evidence of prior art as an answer to this question.. We welcome multiple answers from the same individual.

EXTRA CREDIT - A reference to anything that meets all of the criteria to the question above AND ALSO uses PHYSICAL BUSINESS CARDS to identify the 2nd user contact information (i.e. when you hand someone a business card at a conference), or social networking services such as a FRIEND INVITING MESSAGE or an INVITATION TO AN EVENT .


Summary: [Translated from Legalese into English] A method for “processing user contact information” comprising: You provide contact information about another user and a server initiates a “social networking service” between you and that user.

  • Publication Number: US 20130159435 A1
  • Application Number: 13/607,532
  • Assignee: Renren, Inc. (China)
  • Prior Art Date: Seeking prior Art predating Dec 20, 2011
  • Open for Challenge at USPTO: Open through Dec 20, 2013

Claim 1 requires each and every step below:

A method for processing user contact information, comprising:

  1. obtaining, at a user equipment of a first user, contact information associated with a second user; and

  2. initiating a social networking service SNS operation between the first user and the second user based on the contact information.

In English this means:

A method for connecting users in a social network:

  1. First user provides contact information about a second user

  2. Initiating a “social networking service” (e.g. a friend request, event invitation, etc.) between the first user and the second user based on the contact information

Good prior art would be evidence of a system that did each and every one of these steps prior to the Dec 20, 2011.

You're probably aware of ten pieces of art that meet this criteria already... separately, the applicant is claiming using PHYSICAL BUSINESS CARDS to identify the 2nd user contact information (i.e. when you hand someone a business card at a conference)

"Processing User Contact Information” from the Applicant

What is good prior art? Please see our FAQ.

Want to help? Please vote or comment on submissions below. We welcome you to post your own request for prior art on other questionable US Patent Applications.

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Both and have you fill out a complex survey about yourself including contact information, but also much more on a semi-optional basis, and then use statistics to figure out who is your best match, and you then have the option of contacting the suggested participants.

They are obviously dating sites (which is a subset of social networking), and quite successful at that.

Parship has been launched in 2001, okcupid in 2004 according to Wikipedia.

Also, Facebook does this too: It suggests people according to their contact information. If you put in your school info, it will offer other people who went to school there. While I can't put a solid date on that feature, it's been around since nearly the very beginning.

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Re: specifically the business card claim, it appears that scanR had a business card scanning system that interacted with Plaxo in 2006.

This would establish a system where:

  1. Person A receives a business card from Person B
  2. Person A scans the business card using the scanR service
  3. The scanR service automatically synchronizes with Plaxo

I'm unsure if Plaxo satisfies Claim 1's definition of social networking. Plaxo has operated its service under several different models. However, if it does, then the scanR + Plaxo system would (a) share the same mechanism and (b) solve the same problem as Claim 1

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Facebook Expands Its Reach with Address Book Import (2010-06-09)

This feature did make quite a few headlines at the time do to it's security implications.

Also, as @davidhfe points out, business card scanners / OCR has been available for quite some time, usually paired with a digital address book of some sort (Outlook)

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Nokia launches online NFC store

By Heather McLean Email Heather McLean | July 22nd, 2011 A new online service is designed to make it easy for businesses to begin using NFC by providing smart posters and business cards that enable customers to 'like' a retailer on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and check in on Foursquare as well as a range of other tag reading solutions.

NFC World

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An IBM patent with priority date Aug 6, 2008 specifically covers importing a contact from a physical business card to a list of contacts in a social network:

From the patent:

[0020] The following are several exemplary scenarios based on method 300. In a first exemplary scenario, a user meets an acquaintance when they are seated next to each other on an airplane flight. It turns out that the user and the new acquaintance are both very enthusiastic about a famous singer. Furthermore, the acquaintance happens to be the famous singer’s personal exercise trainer. Before the user and the acquaintance proceed to their separate destinations after the flight, the user scans the acquaintances’ design code from a business card using a cell phone camera and allows it to “morph” (i.e., modify) the user’s design code according to method 300 described above. When the user reviews the user’s social network later, the user notices that the new acquaintances social contact data is connected to the user’s social contact data (e.g., which was the binding point speci fied by the user) and, as a result, is also connected to the famous singer’s social contact data via the acquaintances’ social network, which was inserted during the morph. Therefore, the user can now take pride in being only two degrees of separation from the famous singer in the user’s social net work.

Method 300 consists of:

  • END
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I believe has been using this system for a few years. Basically if a user is not on linkedin you can enter his e-mail address (or allow linkedin to pick up his e-mail address from your hotmail/gmail address book), and then linkedin will send him a notification message asking him to join. Others have mentioned facebook and online dating sites which are also correct.

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Facebook's "People you may know" - 2008

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