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Apple patent filing outlines social networking for shopping

While a lot of shopping is making the move to online stores, for many people there's no substitute for the real thing -- going to a store, browsing merchandise and picking up and trying on things. A recent patent filing by Apple, discovered by AppleInsider, demonstrates a Ping-like social networking service that lets shoppers chat with others, ask for suggestions, get a "thumbs-up / thumbs-down" on a potential purchase and more.

The filing, titled "Social Networking in Shopping Environments," is intriguing. Apple envisions special kiosks in stores where shoppers can download information and photos of products, then use their iPhones to send queries to friends. The screenshot shows a simple Yes / No answer to a question to friends about buying something, several queries to followers to get suggestions or help and a rating system for a store.

By allowing shoppers to coordinate complex discussions with friends without having to bring the friends along to the store, this social networking system would stimulate shopping. That's similar to how Ping is supposed to work, by showing your friends the music you like and getting them interested in purchasing it as well.

For those who like to hang with their friends and go out for an afternoon of power shopping, this won't be a substitute. As always, this patent filing doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will ever produce a social networking system for shoppers. Rather, the company is just protecting its intellectual property.

[via The Loop]

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