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Facebook Hires Engineers, Licenses Patents From Scrapped Facebook Browser Client Wowd

Facebook desktop and web client developer Wowd has shut down after failing to gain traction, AllThingsD reports. Facebook has hired seven of its former engineers, while several other engineers and Wowd’s founder will form mobile startup called Jildy. Facebook and Jildy have both also licensed several Wowd patents, including ones for social search page ranking and a distributed file system that were bought at the last minute by an unnamed publicly traded company that will honor the deals.

We covered the launch of Wowd’s desktop client back in August 2010. The product sought to allows to create custom news feeds based search parameters or characteristics such as “infrequent posters”. It also looked to offer a way to hide game spam, or view all game-related posts in one feed.

However, the relatively inaccessible nature of desktop software, the launch of social browser RockMelt, improved feed filtering options on Facebook.com, and a significant change to the news feed that kept game spam out of the feeds of non-gamers prevented Wowd from gaining traction. Four months later when it launched a web version, the desktop software had only racked up 500,000 total users and 70,000 daily active users, indicating there wasn’t a massive demand for its Facebook client.

AllThingsD has also gotten the details on what’s happening now. Wowd’s products are no longer available and the company has shut down, bringing the $5 million it raised from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, KPG Ventures and Stanford University with it. And, CEO Mark Drummond says that by the end it only had “a few million users” and “we weren’t growing fast enough.”

Seven of its Serbian engineers will be moving to California to join Facebook, however, the report says. There they might apply their knowledge of content filtering to improve Facebook’s news feed algorithm EdgeRank, or the page ranking of its internal search engine. Drummond and five other Wowd engineers will go on to build Jildy, a mobile app that filters social data.

Wowd applied for several fast track patents in October that were issued on May 11th. It agreed to license these to Facebook and Jildy. When a unnamed company heard this news it purchased the patents from Wowd, but the licensing deals will go on.

One social search patent analyzes a user’s identity and filter results based on what similar users clicked. Facebook could use this to improve relevance of its internal search results. For instance, a search for a specific location of a national chain of restaurants could rank highest the Facebook Page most often clicked by others from the same city. Similar filtering could be done by age, spoken language, or education history.

The other patent for a distributed file system that can communicate between instances of desktop software fast enough to permit real-time searches. Facebook could use this technology to link instances of software being designed by its Seattle-based desktop software team. It could also prevent scaling issues in the even of data center failures.

Though 15 other Wowd engineers are now out of a job, the outcome of the company’s demise is relatively positive. Nearly half the company already have new jobs, some at Facebook, and the patent licenses should earn some money for Wowd’s former team. Facebook will benefit from this new talent and technology, and RockMelt is now left as the only serious Facebook desktop client.

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