Facebook has been granted a patent that covers large chunks of the entire social networking news feed concept, potentially stopping other social network providers in their tracks.
The patent application dates back to 2006, just around the time the company first introduced its news feed.
It's since formed the very basis of social networking, keeping people in touch with a steady stream of information about their friends' activities.
The patent, first spotted by All Facebook, makes interesting reading.
"A user (the viewing user) of a social network may choose to view a news feed about another user (the subject user) in the social network," it says.
"A list of the subject user's activities within the social network may be drawn from various databases within the social network. The news feed is automatically generated based on the list of activities."
There's a lot more detail, particularly about how the information is displayed and how it's filtered and prioritised.
Although the patent doesn't cover the whole concept of status updates, it could nevertheless cause shockwaves in the industry. Twitter might object, for example, as it launched around the same time using some very similar ideas. MySpace and Google use similar techniques.
"Facebook patents the newsfeed... there goes the neighborhood," tweeted Chris Messina, a member of Google's new Social Web Team.