Google has a patent pending on a technology it says will rank the most influential people on social networking sites. Although details are sparse, it's reported that the system would work similarly to Google's PageRank ( the algorithm for determining which Web sites appear in a list of search results). By understanding these social patterns, it's hoped that advertising on social networks can be made more relevant and profitable.

BusinessWeek reports:

The new technology could track not just how many friends you have on Facebook but how many friends your friends have. Well-connected chums make you particularly influential. The tracking system also would follow how frequently people post things on each other's sites. It could even rate how successful somebody is in getting friends to read a news story or watch a video clip, according to people familiar with the patent filing. “[Google] search displays Web pages with the highest influence—it makes complete sense for them to extend this to online communities and people,” says Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Forrester Research (FORR).

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