FIRST GOOGLE, NOW AMAZON: Google has gotten quite a bit of press over the last few days over its patent application that ranks news stories according to quality.
Currently the company's search engine throws up thousands of "hits" in response to simple entries such as "Iraq", which lead to news websites. These are ranked either in order of relevance or by date, so that the most recent or most focused appear at the top of the huge list. However, articles that arguably carry more "authority" (e.g., CNN or the BBC) can be omitted from the first page of results, simply because they are not as recent or as relevant to the keyword entered in the search line.
As a result, Google is planning to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly.
The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of cites, along with how long they have been in business. Google's database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site. Once the parameters are received, they are weighted according to various formulae, and distilled down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.
For whatever reason (I suspect the "sexiness" of being Google is a main consideration), everyone's been buzzing about the application. Of course, the original claims are overly broad - but what elso is new. And there hasn't even been a first examination on the merits.
In the meantime, Amazon.com recently received a patent titled "Method and system for information exchange between users of different web pages." Claim 1 reads as follows:
1. A method in a computer system for exchanging information between users of web sites, the method comprising:
providing a mapping between a first web site and a second web site;
when a first user accesses the first web site, providing a web page of the first web site;
receiving information from the first user; and
storing the received information based on the provided mapping; and
when a second user accesses the second web site, providing a web page of the second web site;
retrieving the stored information based on the provided mapping; and
providing a display of the retrieved information so that the first and second users can exchange information.
Pretty broad stuff. This would seem to cover RSS News Readers, TrackBack, and (oop!) Google News. From the looks of it, this smells like a GIGO examination (garbage-in-garbage-out); there are only two patents cited as prior art, and NO publications cited. There was only one rejection asserted during prosecution before the Notice of Allowance was mailed.
A prime opposition candidate? You bet.