Facebook profiles are tough to navigate. The privacy controls are buried and you’re never quite sure if you shared something with just your friends or the entire world.
Snapchat has been working on social media profiles for users that sound a lot better from a privacy perspective than Facebook’s, according to a patent that was published in May.
The company filed the patent in November 2012. It’s possible Snapchat has already developed this technology and intends to implement it in the future, although it doesn’t necessarily need to in order to receive the patent.* Also keep in mind that patents don’t ever have to be used publicly to be granted. Snapchat could just hold onto the software it’s invented but never implement it in the app. But assuming Snapchat does have plans to roll out social media profiles, here’s what to expect.
According to the application, Snapchat has been working on easy-to-control social media profiles that make it very obvious to users which content goes on their public profile and which content goes on a private profile only they can see. Right now, Snapchat doesn’t really have profile pages for users. It just has a feed of previous activity.
The social media profile pages Snapchat has dreamt up are entirely controlled by users, who can drag and drop items to the top or bottom of their feeds. On Facebook, it’s tough to see which content is public and which content is private, which is where Snapchat’s invention differs.
“Privacy is a growing concern with social networks,” the application states. “While most social networks have configurable privacy control settings, such privacy control settings may be hard to find and in many instances they are confusing, resulting in an unintended access to information. Given that users are generally able to see all of the content that they have contributed to their profile, it can be difficult to determine what content is visible to others and what is visible to only the user.”
Snapchat’s solution is to make two clearly-defined sections of a profile page, one that only houses public content, and one that houses private content only the user can see.
Here are more details about the potential Snapchat profile pages:
“A user-controlled social network profile page with posts in a specified order. A user is permitted to [move a piece of content] across the specified order to establish a set position for it…For example, a [piece of content] may be dragged with a single action gesture applied to a touch display of the client device. Alternately, the [content] may be manipulated through a single action mouse stroke or keyboard stroke … Access to posts is provided on a first side of the set position to define a viewable profile. Access to posts on a second side of the set position to define a non-viewable profile.”
What information could be displayed on these public and private social media profiles? Snapchat gives a few examples in the application:
“A social network module [could] support standard social network operations, such as hosting profile pages, maintaining social graphs for individual users and facilitating communication between individual users…member data may specify the member’s name, biographic information, interests and the like.”
Here are the diagrams of how the nearly-patented Snapchat user profiles would work:
Snapchat did not return a request for comment.
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that patents typically get granted after working models of the technology are submitted and reviewed. While this used to be the case, it’s no longer necessary to submit this for a patent to be granted.