By now most of us are familiar with the concept of social networking. Basically, social networking is an agreement between two people to share information with each other, and the means for sharing is by one entering information to be shared in an application, with that information consolidated on one web page that is commonly called a profile. What if a smartphone is the tool for sharing information rather than software like Facebook and Myspace?
A patent application by Apple for “ad hoc networking based on content and location” suggests the possibility of smartphones being the means for sharing. How we share information from smartphones today is by using an app to upload pictures or enter status updates into a web site like Facebook. If implemented, Apple’s patent would allow us to just share specified information that already is on our phone with people with whom we specify we want to share information.
The patent includes the discovery of the phones of people with whom there is a common interest. For example, if you have music from Barenaked Ladies on your phone, the phone can let you know when someone else who also has Barenaked Ladies on their phone is nearby. It looks like discovery would be limited to a certain area of proximity and probably use Bluetooth or NFC.
The concept seems to be born from the idea that the process of posting information on a social networking web site is too cumbersome. Certainly, sharing by simply checking a box in the settings on a phone is simpler, but it also has the feel of less control rather than my specifying what I want to share. If I have something I don’t want to share on Facebook, I just don’t put it on Facebook.
I also don’t really get the discovery aspects of the patent application. Most of my Facebook friends are people who have met at least once in real life, many of them are people who I actually know. I don’t seek out new friends simply by finding out that we share the same music interests, my friendships are based on shared interests and values, which I am not entirely sure is something that is discoverable by what is on my phone.
Patent applications don’t mean that a product implementing the idea will see the light of day, but it does expose ideas. In this case it appears that Apple is thinking of bypassing Facebook and even Twitter and have the smartphones be the actual social network. What do you think? Is this something that you would be interested in using?