AU students are no strangers to new technology. Whether they’re submitting assignments in Moodle, ordering library resources online, or getting together in the AUSU Discussion Forums, ?virtual? connections form a big part of their day.

One AU student has taken that experience a step further: Fred St. Peter is part of the team behind the first real-time social shopping website, Zovue.

Fred is a full-time, fourth-year student in AU’s Bachelor of Commerce ? Accounting program, and he also works at the company that developed Zovue’s technology, Vega Advertising.

?Zovue was designed and developed over the past three years,? says Fred. ?It launched in July of 2009 [and] I joined the project in March of 2009.?

So what makes this such a unique project? Like most other social networking sites, Zovue offers the usual array of video and file sharing, instant messaging, and blogging, among other features. But That’s where the similarities end.

?Zovue is different,? explains Fred, ?because it combines social networking with online shopping. The reason this was done was to combine two increasingly popular Internet destinations into one landing point. The benefit [is] true online social shopping.?

That doesn’t just mean adding things to a shopping basket or reading product reviews by strangers.

Instead, Zovue’s social shopping happens ?in real-time where friends shop together using remote web page sharing. This feature does not require any downloads or software installation. It is part of the website and it allows a group of remote friends to view and interact with a common screen.? This means that users ?have the opinions and feedback from trusted, and known, friends at the time when they are most relevant?while the shopper is shopping.

?Another difference,? adds Fred, is that ?Zovue was created entirely in Adobe Flash.? This gives the site a smooth flow and ?an attractive, customizable look,? he says.

Even if you can practically shop online in your sleep, remote web page sharing is definitely a new twist. You can browse through catalogues with your friends, ?drawing? on pages and adding notes and advice about potential purchases. The online catalogues are remarkably similar to the experience of flipping through real pages and ?are categorized and fully searchable . . . with high quality photos.?

As Fred explains, ?Other websites offering social shopping are basically using comments sections and posted reviews on static boards. This information becomes outdated and there is no direct interaction between shopper and reviewer. Also, the shopper seldom knows the reviewer and the product has to have been reviewed prior [to] the shopper seeking the information.?

As many as four friends can share a web page at the same time, and the technology only works in real time. (If you want to talk about that dress or those golf clubs with a friend who’s off-line, you’ll have to leave a comment in their profile.)

This ?new, never-done-before feature? isn’t the only project in the works, either.

?Zovue is currently developing remote web page sharing, which will allow users to browse outside of Zovue.com,? Fred says. ?This feature could be used to create a social atmosphere where people can surf the web together from their remote locations.? Zovue is also working on widgets, those ?applications so many like to use on social networks,? such as ?games, newsfeeds, etc.,? he adds.

As online social networking continues to grow, real-time social shopping is one of the more intriguing new technologies to emerge from it. And there’s no telling what the possibilities will look like even a few short years from now, or how the ability for remote web page sharing could translate into areas from health care to education platforms and everything in between.

If cutting-edge developments like Zovue are any indication, the online future looks very interesting indeed.

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