Yahoo! Focuses on Social Platform for Achieving Personal Goals

By Steve Brachmann
October 16, 2014

Headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) is a multinational corporation which has achieved global renown for its suite of Internet software technologies, including e-mail, finance, search engine and other web portal services. The corporation recently announced that the renowned Yahoo! Directory, the hierarchical list of links that was the first Internet product offered by Yahoo!, will be discontinued by the end of the year. Although it is parting with some longtime services, the company has been involved in an incredible amount of acquisitions, having recently its purchase of Luminate, a tech startup which has created an interactive platform for tagging images. Meanwhile, Yahoo! is trying to deal with pressure from certain shareholders to consider a merger with America Online.

Yahoo! may not be responsible for the large amounts of intellectual property development seen with other companies featured in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, but we do always find many intriguing innovations when we look at the corporation’s recently filed patent applications. We were greatly interested in a trio of patent applications which are evidence of Yahoo!’s desire to build a social platform for achieving personal goals, including one application discussing the use of social and economic motivators to achieve goals. Other innovations included online advertisement improvements, including a method for presenting virtual billboards through a digital lens device, and methods for discovering relevant online content.

The patent portfolio of Yahoo! has increased in recent weeks, and we’ve selected a few of these inventions that our readers may enjoy learning more about. One patent protects methods of interacting with search engine results through keyboard inputs, improving on current methods which typically only involve mouse-based inputs. We found more patents regarding online advertising, proving that Yahoo! has a definite focus on helping advertisers sell products and services to users of the company’s Internet technologies. We also discuss a type of social network designed by Yahoo! for use specifically with mobile devices.

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Yahoo!’s Patent Applications: From Goal Achievement Platforms to Content Discovery 

After establishing itself as a major company in the early days of consumer Internet technology development, Yahoo! ceded a lot of ground in online search engines and electronic mail to websites like Google by the end of the 2000s. However, the first year of tenure for CEO Marissa Mayer saw the acquisition of 16 technology startups by Yahoo!, a sign that more innovative developments will likely be forthcoming from this corporation, mainly in the areas of mobile tech, social media, online gaming and video chatting. Technologies for online advertising, methods of presenting online content and even computing platforms for goal achievement systems are the focus of patent applications that we explored today.

We were very intrigued to see a large number of patent applications related to goal achievement technologies, and we closely examined three of these which we felt were worth sharing. Methods for creating an impetus to achieve a goal, whether for money or for social benefit, would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140272849, entitled System and Method Providing Positive Social and Economic Motivators for Goal Achievement. The filing discloses a method of defining a list of goals through a computing device, each goal comprised of a progression plan with a set of milestones, and assigning goals to a group of users. For progressing towards goals and hitting milestones, users may be rewarded with a monetary award from an advertiser, or may win a social bet with terms set among friends. Techniques for displaying user progress towards a goal are disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140279720, which is titled System and Method of Event Publication in a Goal Achievement Platform. The patent application would protect a method for the goal achievement platform involving the collection of event data which is relevant to the completion of milestones or progress towards a goal. The system would then present a content item regarding the event data to an interface used by members of a group. The goal achievement platform being developed by Yahoo! could even be used to help amateurs of any kind of talent find corporate sponsorships through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140278929, titled System and Method Identifying Opportunities for Advertising Entities Based on User Goal Achievement. The method that would be protected by this patent application identifies candidates for association with an advertising entity from a group of users based on a proven record of success in past accomplishments. The system can also take into account the probability that a candidate will succeed in a given task before recommending the association.

A couple of other patent applications of interest discuss novel methods for presenting digital advertisements to users of Yahoo!’s Internet technologies. Methods of presenting advertisements to device users in a type of augmented reality would be protected for the company through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140267416, simply titled Virtual Billboards. The patent application would protect a method of automatically capturing information from a device and transmitting it to an overlay system for creating a transparent overlay that contains an advertisement and superimposing the transparent overlay onto a set of device lenses. This system allows the user of a wearable device that provides a reality overlay to view virtual billboards in their physical surroundings when entering an area within a certain distance of an advertiser. Other methods of pushing advertising content to computing devices are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140279071, filed under the title Online Advertising Dashboard. The technology provides a more dynamic system for presenting advertisements to people using web browsers to view content online based on demographic information such as gender, geographic location, income level, occupation, education level and more. The patent application would protect a method of monitoring performance data of online advertisements at a server computing device and transmitting subsets of performance data pertaining to the advertisements to an advertiser computing device.

Yahoo! has always been interested in finding novel techniques for presenting content of interest to users of its web portal technologies, and a few other patent applications which we’re sharing describe improvements in this field. A technology designed to increase the effectiveness of providing personalized content recommendations are disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140280554, entitled Method and System for Dynamic Discovery and Adaptive Crawling of Content From the Internet. This filing would protect a machine-implemented method of determining an indicator which suggests user content preferences and which is dynamically updated based on user events. A pool of online content is updated in response to this dynamic change. Indicators used by this system may pertain to content quality, content popularity or user engagement.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140280554, entitled “Method and System for Dynamic Discovery and Adaptive Crawling of Content From the Internet.”

 

Another method of presenting relevant content to users of mobile devices, this one designed specifically for advertisers, is explained within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140258890, titled Systems and Methods for Altering the Speed of Content Movement Based on User Interest. The patent application would protect a processing system and program logic comprising a user interests programming module that includes user browsing history and user interest information. The system also identifies page content corresponding to a user’s interests a sets a scroll speed for the content based on the user interest. This allows the scroll settings on a page to be altered so that a page scrolls slower across a portion that contains advertising content of interest.

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Issued Patents of Note: More Online Advertising, Mobile Social Networks and Merging Desktop and Cloud Environments

Although it may not be among the 2013 list for the top 50 U.S. patent grant earners, Yahoo! still merits a great deal of attention as a developer of consumer Internet technologies whose innovations are used by a wide swath of the public, in America and many other countries as well. Yahoo! has definitely used its patent portfolio to its advantage in recent months, and recently sold off some patent holdings in 2013 to Chinese-based Internet e-commerce and software developer Alibaba for a reported price of $70 million.

As in our recent survey of Yahoo!’s filed patent applications, we noticed a number of recently issued patents that discuss technological improvements to methods of online advertising. Techniques for breaking through the uncertainty of a potential customer who is considering whether or not to make a purchase at an online store are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8832270, issued under the title User Vacillation Detection and Response. The patent protects a method of receiving information regarding a user’s online behavior, detecting if the user is vacillating based on vacillation patterns and employing a vacillation event model to engage the user to make a decision. The system can also provide businesses with information on customer vacillation so as to identify ways of connecting with potential new markets and customers. A novel way of applying word-of-mouth advertising towards the sale of online products are explored within U.S. Patent No. 8843406, which is titled Using Product and Social Network Data to Improve Online Advertising. The invention involves methods of categorizing users in a social network in accordance with their purchase history regarding a specific product, which may indicate that a user is an early adopter of a technology or a “laggard,” as the patent states. Based on the user history, a suitable advertisement is presented to a social network user at a time during the product’s lifecycle.

Connecting users of computing devices with news and social media is a development goal for many Internet technology innovators, and a few other Yahoo! patents that we’re sharing today were in these fields. A Yahoo! network for social media which is developed specifically for use with portable electronic devices is explained by U.S. Patent No. 8843560, issued under the title Social Networking for Mobile Devices. The mobile device protected by this patent is enabled to perform a list of actions which includes accessing a list of contacts and receiving social networking data for those contacts from a plurality of third-party sources. The innovation also involves the use of an integrated live contact list which can indicate physical proximity to contacts and other aggregated behaviors.

From U.S. Patent No. 8843560, titled “Social Networking for Mobile Devices.”

We also found an intriguing method of presenting a plurality of news articles regarding a single topic, protected by Yahoo! through U.S. Patent No. 8832015, which is titled System for Incrementally Clustering News Stories. The patent protects a method of clustering news stories based on the age of the articles so that predetermined clusters can accommodate newly published articles without having to recompute the entire cluster configuration. In our latest look at Google’s patented technologies, we also saw an invention related to better methods of clustering news articles around a topic, marking this as a potential area of competition among the two major Internet technology developers.

The Yahoo! search engine may not be as widely used with increased competition from Google and Bing, but the company is still trying to improve its services in this area, as is evidenced by U.S. Patent No. 8850358, entitled System and Method for Keyboard Navigation in a Search Results Page. The patent protects a method of facilitating a search based on keyboard interactions that can provide different search results based on a single-key keyboard input. This invention is designed to help search engine users increase the speed of interacting with a search engine successfully over conventional methods of interacting with a results page through a mouse.

Finally, we took a long glance at a patent issued to protect a technology designed to bridge the interface between a desktop environment and cloud computing resources. U.S. Patent No. 8838527, which is titled Virtual Environment Spanning Desktop and Cloud, protects a method of receiving a query template at a computing device, the template comprising a request for data stored in a computing cloud. The query template is segmented into an offline and an online phase, and the execution of the offline phase instructs the cloud computing environment to build indexes. This technology is designed to merge the benefits of desktop computing and the quick access to applications with the increased scalability of cloud computing environments.

 

NOTE: Earlier the author of this article was misidentified. The author was Stephen Brachmann. The article has been edited to reflect this properly as of 3:50pm Eastern on October 16, 2014.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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