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A window-shopping app



ROMA – The app automatically pulls shopping items and their prices from thousands of internet websites and compares their prices for you. That is, it helps you window-shop. If you are a woman, it is time to celebrate.

If you are a man who has to accompany a window-shopping woman, it is time to give thanks. Thanks to the app by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) students, Thandi Mosasane and Samuel Nkoro.

Physical window-shopping is known to bring joy to women and, could we say, “misery” to most men. However, in as much as women like window-shopping, sometimes their strength does not allow them to go through all shops to compare prices.

“By the time you reach the other end of the window-shopping road, you have already forgotten the prices where you began,” complained one window-shopping enthusiast. Supervised by Lerotholi Thite, Thandi Mosasane and Samuel Nkoro schemed something.

“Comparing prices before is one of the best ways to save money,” Mosasane said.

As a lady, Mosasane is probably speaking for women because they are all “born with” that “window-shopping” instinct.

Picture yourself picking your phone and using this app in the comfort of your home. You log into the app. Say you want to buy a phone.

A whole new world opens up for you. You can just type the word phone or, better still, you can type a specific phone brand you want and the app will fetch them for you. Something has already happened way before you started window-shopping.

This app is a scanvenger. A scanvenger is someone who goes around picking things up for later use. Well, something close to that.

“For instance, we give it instructions to pick up all phones it can find on sale in certain websites,” Mosasane said.

“It can either do this randomly in specific locations around the world or it can be directed to specific websites. It picks phone pictures, names, and all the necessary information it can find about them.”

According to Mosasane, this is not stealing. It’s called scraping in computer science.

“Our app doesn’t steal. The information is already in public and, actually, we are helping the sellers to sell better— for free!”

However, not all websites allow the app to pick information from them. Some sites are stingy.

“These websites reject our app outright when it makes a humble request for information,” she said.

She said such sites have anti-scraping tools.

“We the creators of the app will have to ask for permission to get into such websites.”

Thankfully, many apps are not stone-walled like that. So the window-shopping app is happy to scavenge through them for a list of items they sell.

The app then stores the items and arranges them so that it is easy for you to find what you are looking for—and compare. Now, suppose you type a name of a specific phone brand as we showed earlier.

It will then list the phones from the cheapest to the most expensive and which companies sell them. It will list the picture of the phone, the brand name, the price, the link to the website of the company that sells the phone and all other specifications.

If you just type the word phone, it will list all phones of all brands and types it has gathered starting with the cheapest to the most expensive. The same thing can be said about any other products.

Cooking oil, shoes, biscuits, TVs, you name it.

“Many people complain about the price of cooking oil these days,” Mosasane said.

“What they may not know is that there are shops which put on some interesting discounts.”

The app is here to discover such shops. Some people just want to have access to items of a certain range—say M500 to M750. The app will assist you too.

You will be able to choose the price range for a specific product or for a group of products and get a range shown to you. This app also allows you to leave your thoughts about a certain product for others to read.

Once you are ready to buy, you don’t buy on this app. Remember you just window-shop here.

Real shopping happens on the site or physical store where the app picked the product, so you are provided with a link to that site. What if we are talking about a situation where many shops just don’t have websites—Lesotho being a good example?

This app will help them too. The shop owners can simply upload their latest products onto the app, wherever they are, and the system will sort them along with those it has fetched from scavenging the internet. Window shopping has never been this fascinating!

Own Correspondent

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