Google has been granted a patent over the concept of snippets. The patent application was filed backed in March 2004 and the abstract reads as follows:
"Methods and systems for generating textual information are disclosed. In one exemplary embodiment, a method of generating textual information is disclosed that comprises identifying a plurality of candidate summaries related to textual information based at least in part on a document, determining first and second attribute values based at least in part on the candidate summaries, and determining an optimal candidate summary based at least in part on the first and second attribute values."
Google essentially displays snippets of text when someone looks for a string or keywords on its search engine. A snippet provides with context or relevance when a search is done.
It allows the user to determine whether to click on links listed in the search result or not.Google can also be expected to use snippets in everything that is related to search; Google's answer to Wikipedia, Knol, being the first obvious application that this patent is going to have.
It also poses another more complex and controversial question with regards to copyright. Can a snippet be considered as original content and should it carry an attribution?