Facebook's latest trick: Finding slang before it’s cool

Facebook's latest patent pushes the social network into Urban Dictionary's terrain, creating a 'glossary of terms' with new or evolving social definitions.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
A sign with Facebook's "Like" logo is posted at Facebook headquarters near the office for the company's User Operations Safety Team in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook wants you to know that it is hip. Hot. Cool. Rad. Phat. Fetch.

In February, the company secured a patent to develop a social glossary technology that detects slang, acronyms, and other neologisms before they become mainstream. 

The algorithm will search for neologisms – new words or expressions becoming common among a particular group with shared attributes, such as language or location. In other words, it will hunt for pieces of language that are starting to become popular, but are not yet on fleek, Business Insider reports.

New slang will go into an interactive "glossary of terms" where users provide definitions and vote on which terms to keep. If a word's popularity starts shrinking, it would be removed. Words could also be added to the glossary based on user polls.

It's not clear how exactly Facebook intends to use the glossary, but the patent filing suggested that the data could improve predictive text, put new words into autocorrect functions, and better track what’s trending on the social network.

It could also function as a lexicon of the moment, similar to Urban Dictionary.

To explain how the algorithm would work, Facebook used the term "Rickrolled"– a prank that involves tricking Internet users into clicking a link to the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up."

"If a particular textual term 'rickrolled' was added to the social glossary as a verb related to an action that one user can perform upon another user, a 'rickrolling' edge type may be added to the social graph, so as to capture such actions or activity when occurring between users of the social graph," notes the patent application.

The social glossary software is still conceptual, however, and yet to be implemented.

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