Method for providing information to contacts without being given contact data

Abstract

The subject invention provides an information source, such as an advertiser or product vendor, with a method for transferring information to contacts for which the information source has no contact data. The information source stores information in an information database which communicates the information to a referrer which has the desired contact data. The referrer uses a communication device to transfer the information to one or more contacts using contact data.

Claims

1 . A method for providing Information from at least one Information source to a contact having a contact communication device, said method employing an Information database for receiving Information from said Information source; a referrer, who is an individual, having contact data for contacts in a contact database; said Information database supervised by an organization to which said referrer is associated; a first software functionality for processing said Information; said method comprising: communicating said Information from said Information source in the same or modified form to said referrer; transmitting said Information to said contact by means of said contact communication device, said transmitting being by said referrer; and at least one of the following: a) assigning a referral identification to said referrer for tracking, wherein said referral identification is transmitted to said contact; b) (i) said contact data having categories for said contacts and (ii) a second software functionality for said referrer or said contact to specify categories to determine which of said Information is to be received by said contact; and c) a majority of said Information received from unrelated independent sources or from for-profit sources; and at least one of the following: d) a third software functionality for said referrer to request and receive said Information composed in a form for receipt by a contact for the referrer to provide to the contact; e) said organization giving consideration to said referrer or said contact for acting on said Information; f) said organization is a web-based social network, referrer and contacts are members of said web-based social network, and contacts have access to contact data of other members through said web-based social network; and g) where said contact data is withheld from said Information source, use of said contact data by said organization is restricted, and said organization has a prearranged formal referring relationship with said referrer. 2 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least a) and d). 3 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least a) and f). 4 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least b) and d). 5 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least b) and f). 6 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least g). 7 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein said contact data has categories for said contacts, said categories comprising at least one of demographics, behavior, interests and product or service requests, said Information being classified by said categories and said second software functionality permitting said referrer to select said categories for providing said Information to said contacts. 8 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein said transmitting said Information to said contact by means of said contact communication device is by email, text messaging or instant messaging. 9 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein said organization has a website with said Information database comprising a fourth software functionality for said referrer to direct said Information to said contact and said contact database is on at least one of a referrer communication device or said website, wherein said referrer has a private account on said website. 10 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein said second software functionality has a program allowing said contact to opt out from at least one of said categories and/or said referrer can restrict at least one of said categories from being transmitted to said contact. 11 . The method according to claim 1 comprising (b), wherein said Information source receives said Information from an advertiser, where categories are specified for said Information, optionally comprising a fifth software functionality for matching said contact categories and said Information categories automatically. 12 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein prior to communicating said Information to said referrer, said referrer requests at least a portion of said Information from said Information database. 13 . A method for providing Information from at least one Information source to a contact having a contact communication device, said method employing an Information database for receiving Information from said Information source; a referrer, who is an individual, having contact data for contacts in a contact database; said Information database supervised by an organization to which said referrer is associated; a first software functionality for processing said Information; said method comprising: communicating said Information from said Information source to said referrer; said referrer transmitting said Information to said contact by means of said contact communication device; assigning a referral identification to said referrer for tracking and said referral identification is transmitted to said contact; said organization giving consideration to said referrer or said contact for acting on said Information; and optionally said contact transmits said referral identification to said Information source or a third party to identify said referrer. 14 . A method according to claim 11 , wherein said consideration is a reward comprising money, a gift, a discount, a product, an invitation to a function, event tickets or social recognition or a game of chance to win a reward. 15 . A method for providing an invitation to at least one prospective member with a first mobile phone to join an organization, said method employing a website comprising an information database containing said invitation; a referrer, who is a member of said organization, having contact data for said prospective member in a contact database on a second mobile phone, where said contact database is withheld from said organization; said website supervised by said organization; said method comprising: said referrer requesting said invitation from said website; communicating said invitation from said website via a text message to said second mobile phone; and said referrer forwarding said text message to said prospective member from said second mobile phone to said first mobile phone. 16 . The method according to claim 1 , employing a referral file format comprising data in one or more formats, including said Information or a link to said Information, and at least one of said categories, links to third-party sources, referral identification, third-party data and referrer attachments. 17 . The method according to claim 16 , having software functionality for operating on a referral file format (RFF) file to (1) allow the referrer to search for, locate and access Information for transmitting to contacts or to preview and customize said RFF file, generate a master list of contacts with contact data, determine to which contacts to send at least a portion of said RFF file and the portion to be sent, match contacts with Information based on categories, list and edit the categories selected for the contacts to create a contact recipient list, and (2) send said RFF file to contacts on said contact recipient list, prevent re-forwarding of said RFF file by a contact and compile statistics on the actions of the contacts in relation to said RFF file. 18 . The method according to claim 1 , wherein said contact communication device is a mobile phone or personal computer and said referrer receives and transmits said Information by a mobile phone or personal computer. 19 . Computer readable media comprising a database and instructions, said instructions when executed by a processor cause said processor to perform the method according to claim 1 . 20 . The computer readable media according to claim 19 , comprising an RFF file, and said instructions when executed by a processor cause said processor to perform at least one of the following: (a) allow said referrer to determine the consideration being offered to said referrer or said contact for a referrer action or contact action regarding said Information; (b) augment said RFF file to include said referrer's referral ID; (c) allow said referrer to augment said RFF file to include a customized message regarding said Information; (d) generate a master list of contacts with their associated contact data when provided input from said referrer regarding referrer's webmail login usernames and passwords and email programs identifying the accounts from which to generate said master list; (e) allow said referrer to specify when to re-generate said master list of contacts; (f) allow said referrer and said contacts to specify categories associated with said contacts; (g) match categories associated with said Information with categories associated with said contacts to produce a suggested recipient list; (h) allow said referrer to add contacts to or delete contacts from said suggested recipient list to provide a final recipient list; (i) allow said referrer to preview said RFF file to see exactly how each said contact will see it; (j) send said RFF file to said contacts of said final recipient list, including sending said RFF file to an email address, sending as an instant message, sending the RFF file as a text message to a telephone number, sending said RFF file as a voice message to a telephone or computer, and/or sending said RFF file to a fax machine; (k) restrict re-forwarding of said RFF file by said contact to said contact's own contacts; (l) certify that said RFF file is virus free; (m) alert said referrer when there is new said Information on the Information database that relates to at least one of said referrer's contacts; (n) allow said contact to view said Information received by said contact from multiple referrers; (o) sort Information for said contact by said contact's relationship with said referrer or by the quality or relevance of said Information said referrer previously provided to said contact; (u) confirm to said Information source how many contacts said referrer sent said Information to; (v) provide an editable “from” email address for said referrer so said contact sees said Information coming from a trusted email address; (w) allow said referrer to personalize said Information before sending to said contact, optionally by providing message examples via a drop-down box; (p) when said referrer sees said Information online having an RFF link, when said referrer selects said RFF link, said referrer is prompted with contacts to forward said Information to where said contacts match said Information's categories; (q) allow said contact to opt out of receiving said Information; (r) prevent said referrer from sending to said contact said Information that does not have said contact's desired said categories; (s) provide the ability for said contact to block said Information sent from said referrer, and provide the ability for said referrer to block said Information sent from said Information source; (t) extract a desired portion of said RFF file to send based on any of said referrer, said contact, said categories and the communication devices being used; (u) allow said contact to select said RFF file and view it on said contact's communication device; and (v) allow said referrer, when using a webpage, to select an RFF link associated with said RFF file causing any of the following to occur: a. RFFware software runs on the referrer's local computer; b. a browser is opened allowing the referrer to access a remote version of the RFFware software; c. a webmail program is launched; or d. the referrer's default email program is activated; wherein when (c) or (d) are selected, the resulting mail program (1) is pre-filled with said RFF file as an attachment where said RFF file may encapsulate (i) the content of said webpage, (ii) an advertisement on said webpage or (iii) another portion of said webpage; (2) is pre-addressed with said contact data for said suggested contact list based on said categories and (3) said master list of said contacts is displayed with controls to add/delete said contacts from said suggested contact list. 21 . The computer readable media according to claim 19 , comprising an RFF file, wherein said RFF file is a container file format capable of being written to by said Information source, written to with said Information, written to or read from by said referrer and read from by said contact, said RFF file comprising at least one of the following: (a) said Information; (b) a said category; (c) at least one of the following data formats: 3GP, RSS, SMS, HTML, HTML-MP, PDF, JPEG, TIFF, Flash, MPEG, MOV, AVI, WMV, WMA, MP3, M4P and WAV; (d) details concerning said Information source or said referrer; (e) a feedback mechanism for reporting to said Information source when the Information is read by said contact and other actions performed by said referrer and said contact; (f) click-through links and advertisements; (g) a simple text message where said Information is condensed to a summary text message with a link to more of said Information; (h) an encapsulation of said Information from a webpage, with or without an original advertisement, or with replacement or additional advertisements; (i) a pointer or link to said Information where said Information is static or dynamic Information; (j) ability for an advertiser to block said RFF file related to their advertisement from being viewed or emailed; (k) a hyperlink to the appropriate location on a website where said contact who received said RFF file can modify said contact's categories for specifying future desired said Information; and (l) a web link to Information, or a web link to a web link to Information. 22 . The method according to claim 1 , comprising at least f), wherein said referrer can only provide said Information to said contact when said contact and said referrer have mutually agreed to be friends in said web-based social network. 23 . Computer readable media comprising a database and instructions, said database comprising categories for Information from an Information source and for a contact, contact data, and a referral identification for a referrer; said instructions when executed by a processor cause said processor to (1) receive Information from said Information source, (2) communicate Information from said Information source to said referrer for said referrer to transmit said Information to a contact by means of a contact communication device, (3) compare categories for said Information with categories for said contact and limit said Information for communication to said referrer to categories that are common to said Information and said contact, and (4) receive directions from said referrer or contact to modify said categories of said Information to be received by said referrer for said contact.
TECHNICAL FIELD [0001] The field of this invention is privatized providing of information. BACKGROUND [0002] There are commercial software utilities, such as Plaxo, that allow you to access contact lists you have associated with various email programs. For instance, using Plaxo, you could instruct a computer program to access your contact lists for your Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook Express and AOL accounts to allow you to send information to desired contacts in those lists. Amazon.com allows you to forward product information to a friend by entering your friend's email address. CitySearch allows you to send yourself a text message with a restaurant listing by entering your mobile phone number. In these exemplary cases, Plaxo, Amazon.com and CitySearch gain access to the end-recipient contact phone number or email address in order to send the contact the desired information. [0003] Wishlist Buddy™ is a software program that helps people save money on things they have in their Amazon.com Wishlist™. To use the Wishlist Buddy, a person sets target prices for items they have on their Amazon.com Wishlist, and then if any of those items falls beneath such prices, Wishlist Buddy emails the person an alert to let them know. [0004] When right-clicking on non-Flash™ web-based advertisements many browsers give you the option to email to someone a link related to the ad. [0005] It is desirable that you not have to disclose to a source of information the contact data, including but not limited to the telephone number and email address, of a contact to whom you wish the information to be communicated. It is also sometimes desirable to send information to contacts where the contact data is stored on a mobile communication device, such as a mobile phone, without your needing a special program on your phone. There is, therefore, a need to provide a method whereby information from a source can be readily communicated to a contact without disclosing contact data concerning the contact to the information source. [0006] For example, an organization such as a social network involves members who have contact data concerning friends who are not members. The social network has an interest in encouraging its members to enlist their friends into the social network. The subject system provides a novel method to allow members to invite others to join the social network without disclosing to the social network contact data concerning such friends. In this way the member can protect their friends from being contacted by the social network without the request of the member or friend. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION [0007] In the subject method an information source provides information, such as advertisements (including web-page ads) about any of a wide range of types of products and services, discounts, offers, political statements, public announcements, and the like (the “Information”), to one or more contacts by transmitting such Information via one or more referrers. A referrer has access to their own contact database, which may comprise a contact list, with associated contact data. The referrer transmits such Information by a communication device to the referrer's contacts. The Information source is not required to have access to the contact data. Typically, the referrer gets the Information from an Information database (which may be part of a website) to which various Information sources provide Information. The Information sources are typically unrelated to, and independent from, each other and the website or organization that is associated with the Information database. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0008] FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting Information flow from an Information source to an Information database, then to a referrer, then to one or more contacts. [0009] FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting Information flow from an Information source to a contact whose contact data is stored on the mobile communication device of a referrer. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION [0010] A method is provided for expanding a target audience with increased likelihood that the recipient will receive the Information and consider the Information. The method goes beyond those recipients who are readily available to an Information source, reaching a finer-grained resolution of recipients. The method permits Information to be disseminated to an audience which may not be available to the Information source. Using a referral network, the Information is transmitted to the recipient by a trusted source. [0011] The method allows for communication to an end recipient, referred to as a contact, where the Information source is not required to have addresses for electronic communication of Information to the contact. Using a contact communication device the Information is transmitted to a contact from an Information database that receives input from Information sources. An Information source can be an organization that maintains or supervises the Information database, or supervises a service provider selected by the organization that manages the Information database and has members for which the organization has member data, including at least an email address or a mobile communication number. When the Information database is managed by a service provider selected by the organization, the service provider is typically subject to the same constraints the organization has on use of contact data. The members are named “referrers,” since the members play a role in transferring the Information to the contact. The referrer has contact data for one or more contacts, which contacts are known to the referrer. The contact data can be stored in a contact database, which may reside on a personal computer, laptop, mobile phone, or other equivalent device. An Information source may provide Information to more than one referrer. Referrers don't necessarily know or communicate with each other; whereas, a referrer typically either (a) knows, (b) has communicated with or (c) has had a prior relationship with their contacts. A referrer's contacts list often contains only a few hundred contacts or fewer. [0012] The method also allows for customized transmission of Information to the contact where the referrer can ensure that the transmitted Information is relevant to the contact and may provide a personal message associated with the Information. The organization will usually also have a related website which it typically maintains. Such a website comprises the Information database and can also comprise a contact database comprising demographics, interests of the contact, and the like (which are organized into categories), normally supplied by the referrer, but may be supplied or edited by the contact, where the referrer has a personal account with restricted access on the website. Therefore, the website may include contact data that comprises not only the addresses and numbers of the members and contacts, but also personalized data concerning each of the contacts. The website may have Information source accounts, referrer accounts and contact accounts, where each such account may be private and password protected. [0013] The method employs a first software functionality for processing the Information from the Information source and transmitting the Information to one or more referrers. The Information may be transmitted in the form in which it is received or may be modified to where it provides only the meaning or significance of at least a portion of the received Information. The modified Information will generally provide the basic information intended to be transmitted by the Information source as may be selected or restricted by the referrer or categories. The Information may be filtered based on the contact data, so that the Information which is sent to a referrer for further transmission to a contact is selected in accordance with the contact data. The first software functionality may run on a website that provides for a private account for a referrer, where the referrer may provide the contact data, which may be retained in confidence. The referrer can then transmit the received Information to the contact by means of a contact communication device. [0014] The subject method is distinguished from other methods by having at least one each from the following two groups of components. Included in the first group is assigning a referral identification to a referrer, also called a referrer identification code. The referral identification is transmitted to the contact. The identification allows for tracking of the actions of the referrer and the referrer's contacts. In this way, consideration can be provided as an incentive for the referrer to actively participate in the program and work with the organization to ensure the success of the subject method. A referrer or contact can provide contact data organized into categories for associating the nature of the Information to the nature of the contact. To provide this capability, a second software functionality is provided that relates the category(s) for the Information to the contact data for the contact. Included with having categories is the opportunity for the referrer or contact to specify categories to determine which portion of the Information is to be received by the contact. The nature of the categories will be expanded on subsequently. Another component of the first group is that the Information is received from unrelated independent sources or for-profit sources. In this way, advertisers, businesses or other for-profit organizations can use their advertising dollars more efficiently in that they can reach a larger audience for which they do not have contact data and provide the Information to this audience in a manner that will not be treated as spam and is more personal to the recipient as being from someone the recipient knows. While the majority of the Information will be from such sources, that is, greater than 50 percent of the informational items transmitted, some of the Information may come from related or non-profit organizations. [0015] A referrer may elect to (1) review Information and decide to which contact to send the Information, (2) have a contact be automatically identified based on matching categories of the Information with desired categories of the referrer's contacts, but where the referrer then makes the final decision about whether or not to send the Information to the identified contact, or (3) have a contact be automatically identified based on matching categories of the Information with desired categories of the referrer's contact, and then to have Information automatically sent to a contact without review by the referrer. [0016] The opinion of the referrer typically is respected by the referrer's contacts. Thus, the subject patent provides a way for a respected referrer to promote Information by peer influence. [0017] These aspects when used together provide for an efficient system for a commercial entity to direct advertising or other communication to a target audience via an intermediary recognized by the target audience, who can also serve as a proponent of the advertising or communication. Consideration can be provided as an incentive to ensure the favorable transmission of the Information. [0018] In the second group of components, a third software functionality is provided to allow the referrer to request and receive Information in writing. The content of the Information is composed in a form for receipt by the contact, rather than the referrer. The referrer provides the Information to the contact, where the referrer will be recognized by the contact. This can be expedited with a website, where the Information is stored and the referrer requests the Information from the website. The referrer can have a private account on the website that is restricted to use by the referrer. As already alluded to, a further component is that the method allows for rewarding the referrer and/or contact for participating in the method and acting on the Information. By combining the referral identification with consideration, such as promotional rewards, the referrer will be encouraged to actively participate. [0019] The organization can be a web-based social network to provide for the association between the referrers and the organization, so that the referrer and contacts have an existing relationship with the organization. Often times, such social networks allow its members to mutually agree to be “friends” in the social network. Within the organization, the contacts could have access to contact data of other members. Another component, which may be implemented by an additional software functionality, is for the referrer to withhold contact data from the Information source and the use of the contact data by the organization is restricted. Also, the organization can have a prearranged formal referring relationship with the referrer. By providing for a formal relationship, the referrer participates actively with the understanding of the rules of the method and the enjoyment of rewards, as available. Typically, a formal referring relationship lays out the terms whereby the referrer receives consideration. Such a relationship also typically describes the organization's restrictions on use, dissemination and privacy of the contact data. [0020] Various combinations of the different groups are of interest, such as (1) the referral identification coupled with the referrer requesting information and/or the web-based social network and (2) the data having categories coupled with the referrer requesting information and/or the web-based social network. [0021] Any of the components described above may be associated with having the contact data withheld from the Information source, having use of the contact data by the organization restricted and the organization having a prearranged formal referring relationship with the referrer. [0022] An attractive aspect of the method allows the referrer and the contact to participate in choosing categories to be received by the contact and to modify the menu of categories from time to time. Software can be provided that allows automatic selection of contacts to receive the Information based on common categories between the Information and the contact. Typically, the contact will have an ability to “lock” a category after specifying its desired state such that the referrer cannot edit the contact's selection. [0023] In one aspect of the subject invention, the method provides for providing Information from at least one Information source to a contact having a contact communication device. The method employs an Information database, supervised by an organization, for receiving Information from the Information source. A referrer, an individual, associated with the organization, has contact data for contacts in a contact database, which contact database may be on a communication device and/or on a website. A software functionality is employed for processing the Information. The method comprises communicating the Information from the Information source to the referrer, the referrer transmitting the Information to the contact by means of the contact communication device, assigning a referral identification to the referrer for tracking with the referral identification being transmitted to the contact, with the organization giving consideration to the referrer or the contact for acting on the Information, and optionally the contact communication device transmitting the referral identification to the Information source or a third party to identify the referrer. [0024] In another aspect, the method is employed in obtaining members for an organization. In a particular embodiment, the prospective members have mobile phones. A website comprising an Information database containing an invitation is employed. A member of the organization, called a referrer, has contact data for a prospective member in a contact database on the referrer's mobile phone. The prospective member's contact data is withheld from the organization. The method comprises the referrer requesting the invitation from the website, where the invitation addresses a prospective member not the referrer, communicating the invitation from the website via a text message to the referrer's mobile phone, and the referrer forwarding the text message to the prospective member by means of the respective mobile phones. [0025] To further expand on the subject invention, without direct access to contact data for a contact (or plurality of contacts), an Information source (or plurality of Information sources) can provide Information to the contact (or plurality of contacts) using a referrer (or plurality of referrers), whereby each referrer has access to a contact database, usually a contact list (or plurality of contact lists) and selects a contact (or plurality of contacts) to receive the Information. For the purposes of this invention, a contact list will be used as equivalent to a contact database and is sometimes referred to as an address book by some people. Typically, the Information provided by the Information source may relate to any of a large variety of different types of products and services, not merely a single type of product or service with categorical differences. [0026] The Information source provides Information to a data processor, which may be associated with a web server, to collect and store Information in an Information database and to transmit selected Information to the referrer. The Information source may be the originator of the Information, such as an advertiser. The Information database may act as an Information aggregator, Information portal or Information repository of Information coming from Information sources or other Information databases. Information of the Information database may be “scraped” from a website. The Information database may be associated with an organization or a website. In one example, the Information database is associated an Information website from which the referrer retrieves the Information, where Information sources and referrers have accounts with the Information website. [0027] The referrer uses a communication device, which typically includes or accesses a contact database of contact data, to communicate with the contact. Typically, the referrer is an individual and the contacts are his/her friends or acquaintances, or where the referrer has previously communicated to or received communication from the contact, typically personally, telephonically, via email, text message or other electronic means. Usually, the communication device will be a mobile communication device or desktop communication device or the like. The contact will receive the Information via their own communication device. Communication of the Information from the Information source to the referrer, and then transmission from the referrer to the contact, is typically over a wireless or wired medium, including but not limited to the internet, mobile phone network, cable, DSL, WiFi, Bluetooth, RF and the like. The referrer has a list of contacts with associated contact data. The referrer selects one or more contacts from the referrer's list of contacts and transmits the Information received from the Information source to the contact(s). [0028] A mobile communication device includes, but is not limited to, a mobile phone, a mobile computer, a pager or any other wireless device capable of receiving and sending a signal and interacting with the user, including but not limited to a product consumer or social network organization member. [0029] The subject invention has particular application where the contact list is a private list which the referrer wishes to retain as a private list and not divulge any data associated with the list, particularly to an organization that might use the list for advertising purposes. As indicated previously, the subject invention can be used effectively with a social network organization. Consider where the social network organization wishes to expand its membership through its existing members who can serve as referrers. The social network organization has a data processor associated with its website that provides Information to the referrer for transmission by the referrer to a contact. The referring member can request the Information from the data processor. The Information may include a description of the social network organization, an invitation to join, a website address and/or email address for the contact to be able to join the social network organization. The Information may be in a form such that it was written to a contact as a prospective new member, rather than being written to a referrer. Thus, all the referrer needs to do is forward the Information to the contact, unmodified, making it quick and easy for the referrer, and at the same time, ensuring that the Information is presented in the manner the Information source, being a social network organization, desires. Until the contact contacts the social network organization with its contact data, the organization has no access to the contact data of the contact. The referrer need not be concerned about disclosure of the contact data and since the Information is coming from the referrer as a trusted source, Information from the referrer is likely to be opened, read or otherwise acted upon by the contact. In addition, the Information will have the endorsement of the referrer. Of course, the social network will have many more interests for transmission of Information by a referrer than expanding membership, such as advertisements, offers, promotions, event notices, etc. [0030] As an example of an invite function on a mobile phone, a referrer who is a member of a social network organization may be presented with a link on their mobile phone entitled, “Invite Friends”. Upon selecting the link, the referrer is presented with a prompt saying, “Receive a text message on your phone that you can forward to any of your contacts.” If the referrer selects “OK” to this prompt, the referrer receives a text message stating, “Join me on this cool new ‘nightlife networking’ site and we can meet up at bars & clubs, find new friends and get drink discounts: http://m.hoozware.com.” The referrer can then simply choose contacts in their contact list on their mobile phone to which the referrer can easily forward the text message. This scenario eliminates the need for the referrer to author and re-type a message on their mobile phone in order to invite his/her friends to join the social network organization. This scenario of forwarding a text message not only makes sure the intended Information is accurately conveyed to contacts, but it facilitates and expedites the process for the referrer. This scenario also does not require that the referrer load any special software onto their mobile phone in order to access their contact list, but rather the phone's built-in forwarding feature and contact-list-access mechanism is utilized. [0031] In a first embodiment of the subject invention, only the referrer is a member of a social network organization. In a second embodiment, the Information source and referrer are both associated with the same social network organization and contacts are not associated with the social network organization. In a third embodiment, the Information source, the referrer and the contact are all associated with the same social network organization. In a fourth embodiment, the Information source, the referrer and a first and second contact are all associated with the same social network organization, and the first and second contact are able to communicate with each other using the social networking organization. In one version of the fourth embodiment above, the first and second contact may be able to communicate with each other using the same communication devices they receive Information from the referrer. In any of the above embodiments, the Information communicated by the Information source pertains to the social network organization. [0032] While the subject invention has been illustrated above with a social networking organization, it can find application in any situation where a first entity (e.g., a person or organization) may have a relationship with a second entity (e.g., a person), and where the first entity is able to communicate Information to, and may communicate with, the second entity via a data processor associated with an Information database. The first entity may serve as an Information source originating Information. Such a second entity has a contact list and a communication device and may serve as a referrer to receive Information from the Information source, optionally augment it with additional data, and transmit such augmented Information to contacts on the referrer's contact list, where each contact is a third entity (e.g., a person or organization). The referrer may request Information from the Information database that the referrer wishes to transmit to the contacts. In this way, the first entity can have Information transmitted to a broader audience of contacts than it could reach using only its own contacts by having its Information transmitted to the contact lists of multiple referrers. Therefore, the subject method circumvents problems associated with mass distribution of Information to audiences through electronic means by sources unknown to them, e.g., spam, since such Information is mainly ignored and can irritate the recipient contact. Employing the subject invention, Information is filtered through referrers who represent “trusted sources” to contacts on their contact lists and who endorse the Information. Because the Information comes from a known source, the Information is more likely to find acceptance with the contact. [0033] In general, the subject method finds application with companies that wish to advertise products, activities, etc. In one embodiment for enhancing the efficiency of the referrer in transferring Information to contacts, the referrer is provided categories for associating with relevant contacts. The categories may include demographics, behavior, interests, social graphs, previous purchases, gift requests (such as product or service requests), etc. Each contact in the referrer's contact list may be associated with one or more categories. Desirably, the contact may inform the referrer of the categories the contact feels are relevant or revise the categories selected by the referrer. The referrer determines the Information the referrer wishes to pass along to the referrer's contacts. The referrer may determine the Information in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: (a) The Information database may be associated with a website where the referrer may go (1) to select items of Information to be downloaded to the referrer's communication device for transmitting to the referrer's contacts, optionally after augmenting with additional data; or (2) to determine which items of Information are to be transmitted to the referrer's contacts directly from the website, optionally after augmenting with additional data. (b) The referrer may issue a command to the Information database requesting to receive Information for transmitting to the referrer's contacts, optionally after augmenting with additional data. (c) The Information database may initiate sending the referrer an Information package in abbreviated form from which the referrer may select the portion of the Information package which the referrer believes may be of interest to the referrer's contacts. The referrer may then request from the full Information as to the referrer's selection. [0037] Demographics include, but are not limited to gender, birthdate, height, eye/hair color, body type, address, zipcode, hometown, ethnicity, spoken language, education, occupation, income, political view, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, living situation, number of kids, desire for kids, pets, astrological sign, and the like. Behavior includes, but is not limited to exercise habits, sports participation, body art, smoking/drinking frequency, diet, favorite music, favorite places to go, favorite drink, favorite show, favorite book, and the like. Interests include, but are not limited to business networking, cards/games/puzzles, casino gaming, coffee & conversation, community service/volunteering, computers/internet, cooking, crafts/hobbies, dining, fine arts/museums, friends/family, gardening, meeting new people, movies/videos, listening to music/concerts, playing music/singing, nightclub dancing, performing arts, photography, politics, reading, religion/spirituality, shopping, television, travel/sightseeing, video games, watching sports, wine tasting, and the like. [0038] Furthermore in this embodiment, advertisers can submit Information to the Information database for dissemination. The Information from the advertiser may include general content about the advertiser, promotional materials, including but not limited to available products, discounts, location availability, political or non-profit content, or other content typically associated with coupons. The Information communicated by the Information database indicates the categories associated with the Information. The referrer then compares the indicated categories of the Information with the referrer's contact list, optionally matching the indicated categories of the Information with the categories associated with the contacts, to determine to which contacts the referrer should transmit the Information. An optional computer program can be provided to the referrer to be installed on or accessed by the referrer's communication device to facilitate the matching of and transmission to the appropriate contacts of the Information. Such computer program may be accessed from a website containing, controlling or otherwise associated with the Information database. [0039] Consideration may be given to encourage referrers to refer Information and contacts to receive and/or act upon Information. Consideration may include rewards, such as monetary rewards, gift rewards, product or discount rewards, opportunities to participate in particular functions, tickets to events, social recognition, etc. Different avenues may be employed in presenting the consideration depending upon (1) the nature of the consideration, (2) whether the consideration is directed to the referrer, contact or both, (3) the manner in which the consideration is presented, and (4) the like. [0040] Consideration can be presented as a game of chance, such as a simulated roulette wheel, a shell game, choosing a card, number or word from a set, where the referrer or contact has the opportunity to win a reward. The consideration may be associated with a coupon, either electronic or paper, where redemption of the coupon by the contact results in a reward for the referrer, the contact, or both. [0041] Consideration may be given to the contact for a contact action, including, but not limited to acting upon the Information, such as viewing it, clicking on it, purchasing an advertised product, attending an advertised event, and the like. Consideration may be given to the referrer for a referrer action, including, but not limited to, transmitting the Information to the contact. Consideration may be given to a referrer after a predetermined number of contacts have been sent Information by the referrer or when one or more of the referrer's contacts acts upon the Information. Consideration may also be given to a contact after the contact has received or viewed a predetermined amount of Information. Consideration typically is not given to a referrer based solely on a purchase by a contact to whom the referrer sent the Information and where the Information relates to or encourages the purchase. [0042] In order to track or otherwise know which referrer has transmitted Information to a contact, a referrer identification code, also called a referral identification or just referral ID can be employed. The referrer may register with the Information source to receive their own unique referrer identification code. The referrer identification code may be alphanumeric, symbols, etc. Tracking of each referrer allows for consideration to be directed to a particular referrer based on the actions of that referrer and the contact to whom they provide Information. Typically, Information from an advertiser will also include a code for the tracking convenience of the advertiser. [0043] Computer software, which may comprise multiple software components providing functionality, may be used to organize and combine many of the features of the subject invention and to facilitate their use. A special file format for this purpose, called a Referral File Format™ (RFF™), as well as computer software, called RFFware™, is described below. [0044] The RFF is a container file format that many different entities may write to or read, including, but not limited to: Information sources may write to, Information may be written to, referrers may write to and read, and contacts may read. In accordance with the referral file format, an RFF file may comprise, but is not limited to: (a) Information and associated categories; (b) one or more data formats, including but not limited to 3GP, RSS, SMS, HTML, HTML-MP, PDF, JPEG, TIFF, Flash, MPEG, MOV, AVI, WMV, WMA, MP3, M4P, WAV and the like; (c) details about the Information source or the referrer, such as the referral ID; (d) a feedback mechanism, such as JavaScript, that reports to the Information source when the Information is read by a contact as well as other actions performed by the referrer and contact; (e) click-through links, advertisements, and the like; (f) a simple text message where the Information is condensed to a small or summary text message with a link or links to more of the Information or additional related or unrelated Information; (g) an encapsulation of Information from a webpage, with or without the original advertisement, or with replacement or additional advertisements; (h) a hyperlink to the appropriate location on a website where the contact who received the RFF file can modify their categories for specifying future desired Information; and (i) a pointer or link to the Information where the Information may be static or dynamic Information. [0054] An RFF file might not comprise Information, but may merely be associated with Information. For example, an RFF file might be a file containing one or more web links to Information or additional links that eventually lead to Information. [0055] A website may include links to data provided by third-party sources, where the third-party sources are independent from the website, and where the data may be static or dynamic data. For instance, one may get an RFF file from a website that aggregates product reviews or product pricing provided by other websites, where such other websites are referred to as third-party sources. The product reviews and product pricings listed on such third-party sources are third-party data. The RFF file from the aggregating website may contain links to such third-party sources or links to such third-party data. The RFF file may also directly contain the actual third-party data from the third-party sources. Third-party data may also comprise advertisements from third-party sources. [0056] An RFF file can allow an advertiser to block the RFF file related to their advertisement from being viewed or emailed to someone else. For example, the advertiser might want an offer to only go to someone who visits a particular website. The advertiser might want an ad to only go to a contact with certain categories. In the case where an advertiser is charged per recipient of an ad they send out, the advertiser might not want their ad to be sent to anyone without specified categories. [0057] The subject invention may be used by a referrer to quickly and easily inform their friends or associates of various products and services without disclosing the contact data (including but not limited to email address, phone number, name, street address, etc.) for such friends and associates. One example is where a generic product or service webpage has a “Privately Inform Contacts” link, which when selected matches the product or service with the referrer's contacts, e.g., friends or associates, optionally using categories and allows the referrer to transmit the Information, a link to the Information, or content associated with the Information, to one or more of the matched contacts. In this way, vendor advertisements are leveraged by allowing referrers to easily forward Information to their own friends and contacts; thus, reaching the “last mile.” [0058] In one embodiment of the subject invention, when a referrer hovers their mouse over an advertisement on a webpage, or right-clicks on the ad, there is a pop-up or drop-down box that prompts to “Match to Friends.” If selected, the referrer's friends and/or other contacts are prompted for further selection. The consideration may be shown that the referrer would receive for sending Information relating to the advertisement to a particular prompted contact. [0059] In general, RFFware is utility software that, among other things, makes it easier for a referrer to search for, locate and access various Information from an Information database for transmitting to contacts (where such Information may be contained in, referenced by, or otherwise associated with an RFF file), as well as augment or otherwise customize the RFF file, determine to which contacts to send the RFF file, send the RFF file to such contacts, follow up with such contacts and review statistics about which of such contacts acted upon the RFF file and how. RFFware comprises software that may be resident on a local data processor, accessed remotely over a network and/or run on a hosted computer server. In one example, a referrer may use a web browser to login to their account on a remote computer server where they access the functionality of the RFFware software. For instance, an Information database may be associated with a website to which advertisers may login to their accounts to post Information they wish to disseminate (where such Information may be categorized), and to which referrers may login to their accounts to access posted Information they wish to send to their contacts. [0060] Whether run remotely, or on the referrer's local computer, RFFware may help perform one or more of the following functions, yet at no time allowing the Information source to have access to the referrer's contacts or contact data without the referrer's permission: (a) allow the referrer to determine the consideration being offered to a referrer or contact for a referrer action or contact action regarding the Information; (b) augment the RFF file to include the referrer's referral ID; (c) allow the referrer to augment the RFF file to include a customized message regarding the Information; (d) generate a master list of contacts with their associated contact data when provided input from the referrer regarding referrer's various webmail login usernames and passwords and email programs identifying the accounts from which to generate the master list; (e) allow the referrer to specify when to re-generate the master list of contacts; (f) allow the referrer and contacts to specify categories associated with the contacts, optionally where the referrer may choose send a form to a contact asking the contact to specify their desired categories, and optionally where RFFware then assimilates the specified categories with the contact's associated contact data; (g) match the categories associated with the Information with the categories associated with the contacts to produce a suggested recipient list; (h) allow the referrer to add contacts to or delete contacts from the suggested recipient list to provide a finalized recipient list; (i) allow the referrer to preview the RFF file to see exactly how each contact will see it; (j) send the RFF file to the contacts of the finalized recipient list, including but not limited to sending the RFF file to an email address, sending as an instant message, sending the RFF file as a text message to a telephone number, sending the RFF file as a voice message to a telephone or computer, and/or sending the RFF file to a fax machine; (k) if desired, restrict re-forwarding of an RFF file by a referrer's contact to the contact's own contacts; (l) certify that the RFF file is virus free; (m) alert the referrer, optionally via text message, when there is new Information on the Information database relates to one or more of the referrer's contacts; (n) allow the contact to view the Information received by them from multiple referrers, where the contact may go to a website to view the Information; (o) sort Information for the contact based on the contact's relationship with the referrer or based on the quality or relevance of the Information the referrer previously provided to the contact; (p) confirm to an Information source how many contacts a particular referrer sent their Information to; (q) provide an editable “from” email address for a referrer so a contact sees the Information coming from a trusted email address; (r) allow the referrer to add a referrer attachment in order to personalize the Information before sending to a contact, optionally by providing message examples via a drop-down box, such as “I just bought this and though you might like it, too”; (s) when a referrer sees an advertisement online having an RFF link, when the referrer selects the link, the referrer is prompted with contacts to forward the Information to where the contacts match the Information's categories; and (t) extract a desired portion of the RFF file to send based on any of the referrer, the contact, specific categories and the communication devices being used. [0081] A contact can require that it only receive Information falling into certain desired categories. If the contact receives Information other than falling into their desired categories, then the Information is considered spam and the contact may opt out of receiving further Information. RFFware can prevent a referrer from sending to a contact Information that does not have the contact's desired categories. [0082] Referrer attachments include any text, picture, video or auditory attachments that the referrer might wish to include with the Information when sending to a contact. The referrer attachment may be added to the RFF file along with the Information. A referrer attachment may explain the Information, it may relate to who the referrer is or why the referrer is sending the Information to the contact, it may augment the Information, and the like. [0083] If an Information source specifies that Information is relevant to categories that are not relevant to the Information, the referrer can elect to stop using that Information source. RFFware may provide the ability for a contact to block Information sent from a particular referrer, and may provide the ability for a referrer to block Information sent from a particular Information source. [0084] Typically, there is separate viewing/reading software, which may be a portion of the RFFware software described above that provides RFF file viewing/playing capability for a contact. The RFF file may include instructions for installing the viewing software on the contact's communication device. Accordingly, when a contact receives the RFF file and clicks on it, the relevant content is conveniently displayed. [0085] A website may include an RFF link on its web pages such that when a referrer identifies an RFF file it wishes to transmit to contacts, the referrer clicks the RFF link and any of the following may occur: (a) RFFware software runs on the referrer's local computer; (b) a browser is opened allowing the referrer to access a remote version of the RFFware software; (c) a webmail program is launched or (d) the referrer's default email program is activated. In case (c) or (d), typically the resulting mail program (1) is pre-filled with an RFF file attachment where the RFF file may encapsulate (i) the content of the web page, (ii) an ad on the webpage or (iii) another portion of the webpage; (2) is pre-addressed with the contact data for the suggested contact list based on categories and (3) the referrer's master list of contacts is displayed with controls to add/delete contacts from the suggested contact list. [0086] RFF files may be downloaded by a referrer and stored on the referrer's local computer, or the RFF files may be uploaded to a remote account of the referrer that is associated with a remote version of the RFFware software. [0087] An RFF link on a webpage may be context dependent or depend on where it is located on the webpage. For instance, a webpage for an online shopping aggregator may comprise a list of products by different vendors, in addition to a banner ad along the top. The banner ad may have an associated RFF link; each product and/or vendor listed may have their own associated RFF link; and the entire page may have an RFF link. [0088] When the referrer and contact are members of the same social network organization, typically the referrer may select (e.g., by clicking) an RFF link on a webpage of the social network organization which allows the referrer to automatically, or otherwise easily match Information with the contact based on categories and then transmit the Information or an associated RFF file to the contact. [0089] Besides selecting an RFF link on a webpage to activate the RFFware software, another way a referrer may access Information and transmit it to contacts is by logging into an account running the RFFware software. Upon logging in, the referrer may see a matrix where each row is associated with different portions of Information and lists related data. Such rows of related data may include columns comprising any of the following: (1) select boxes for selecting that row corresponding to a particular portion of the Information; (2) summaries of the portion of Information, where such summaries may be links to an expanded description; (3) descriptors of the portion of Information, such as ad type, vendor, and the like; (4) the total number of contacts having categories matching the categories of the portion of Information; (5) the contacts who actually possess the categories matching the portion of Information; (6) some or all of the contact data associated with such contacts; (7) the consideration a referrer would make for sending the portion of Information to the listed contacts; (8) a check box for adding the referrer's referral ID and (9) a box for adding a personalized message. Associated with the matrix may be “send” and “cancel” buttons to cause the selected portions of Information to be transmitted to the matching contacts. [0090] Using the subject invention to offer a referral network while protecting contact data is a useful technique to monetize social networks and Web 3.0 applications. [0091] FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing first data 107 being communicated bidirectionally between an Information source 100 and an Information database 101 , where the first data 107 may include Information communicated from the Information source 100 to the Information database 101 . In this figure, the Information source 100 may be replaced by a multiplicity of independent Information sources, but to keep the figure clear, only one Information source 100 is shown here. In this figure, the Information database 101 may be replaced by a multiplicity of independent Information databases, but to keep the figure clear, only one Information database 101 is shown here. Second data 108 is communicated bidirectionally between the Information database 101 and a referrer 102 , where the second data 108 communicated from the Information database 101 to the referrer 102 may include all or a portion of, a summary of, or a reference to, Information communicated from the Information source 100 to the Information database 101 . In general, there may be multiple referrers such as referrer 102 . Third data 109 is communicated bidirectionally between the referrer 102 and a first contact 103 ; fourth data 110 is communicated bidirectionally between the referrer 102 and a second contact 104 ; and fifth data 111 is communicated bidirectionally between the referrer 102 and an nth contact 105 . The third data 109 , fourth data 110 and fifth data 111 communicated from the referrer 102 may include all or a portion of, a summary of, or a reference to, Information communicated from the Information database 101 to the referrer 102 . The referrer 102 may access the referrer's contact database 106 . In this figure, the contact database 106 may be replaced by a multiplicity of independent contact databases, but to keep the figure clear, only one contact database 106 is shown here. [0092] Contact 103 may communicate sixth data 112 to the Information database 101 or may communicate seventh data 115 to the Information source 100 ; contact 104 may communicate eighth data 113 to the Information database 101 or may communicate ninth data 116 to the Information source 100 ; contact 105 may communicate tenth data 114 to the Information database 101 or may communicate eleventh data 117 to the Information source 100 . The Information database 101 may only initiate communication with contact 103 , 104 or 105 when directed by the referrer 102 , and the Information source 100 may not initiate communication with contact 103 , 104 or 105 . Twelfth data 118 may be communicated between contact 103 and contact 104 ; thirteenth data 119 may be communicated between contact 104 and contact 105 ; and fourteenth data 120 may be communicated between contact 103 and contact 105 . [0093] FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing Information 209 from an Information source 208 being provided to the contact communication device 205 of a contact, where contact data is not known by the Information source 208 but is known by a referrer. In this figure, the Information source 208 may be replaced by a multiplicity of independent Information sources, but to keep the figure clear, only one Information source 208 is shown here. The Information source provides Information 209 to an Information database 201 . In this figure, the Information database 201 may be replaced by a multiplicity of independent Information databases, but to keep the figure clear, only one Information database 201 is shown here. The Information database 201 may communicate 210 back to the Information source 208 . The Information database then provides all or a portion of, a summary of, or a reference to, the Information 209 as Information 1 200 to a referrer communication device 202 of the referrer. In general, there may be multiple referrers each using their own referrer communication devices such as referrer communication device 202 . Using the referrer communication device 202 , the referrer may request 203 the Information 1 200 or otherwise communicate with the Information database 201 . The referrer may also use the referrer communication device 202 to reply 203 to the Information database 201 after receiving the Information 1 200 . [0094] Typically, the referrer communication device 202 accesses contact data from one or more contact lists or contact databases of contact data. In FIG. 2 , the referrer communication device 202 is a mobile phone which has a contact database on it. The referrer selects contact data for a contact from the contact database and transmits all or a portion of, a summary of, or a reference to, Information 1 200 as Information 2 204 to the contact communication device 205 of the contact. In general, a referrer may send Information to multiple contact communication devices such as the contact communication device 205 . Using its contact communication device 205 , the contact may respond 206 to the referrer communication device 202 . It is also possible for a contact to initiate a message to a referrer, for instance, to request Information from one or more Information sources, such as Information 209 from Information source 208 , or to provide or update its requested categories. Using its contact communication device 205 , a contact may also communicate 207 to the Information database 201 . Such a communication 207 may be to provide or update the contact's requested categories. Using its contact communication device 205 , a contact may also respond 211 to the Information source 208 . Such a response 211 may be requested as part of the Information 209 from Information source 208 . [0095] All publications and patent applications cited in this specification are herein incorporated by reference as if each individual publication or patent application were specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference. [0096] Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail by way of illustration and example for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in light of the teachings of this invention that certain changes and modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit or scope of the appended claims.

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