So, I’m going on vacation tomorrow for a week. Keep reading if you care.
These are niche networks, an ever-more common phenomenon; as horizontal social networks like Facebook and MySpace get more popular, spam, unwashed masses, ads and stalking are among the irritating side effects. Anyway, TripIt and Dopplr seek to provide a network of friends for people who travel, ideally allowing travelers to form first life meetups wherever possible.
Business travel can be lonely, so applying a social network to it makes sense. Of course, sharing travel plans has a creepy factor and is potentially dangerous. So, companies in this area need to give a warm fuzzy feeling of security. This is one reason I wasn’t an early adopter of Dopplr, which launched first and recently left private beta.
As with a lot of apps, it took trusted contacts to pull me into Dopplr and TripIt. While I was in San Francisco, Jeff Nolan pinged me asking if I had a Dopplr account. I knew about Dopplr, but hadn’t joined because of creepy/scary reasons, but it makes sense if you travel a lot. Travel is a necessary evil of the modern web worker. It’s the flip-side of the ability to telecommute and work from anywhere. Sometimes anywhere means travel.
And travel is a drag. So why not connect with friends/colleagues/associates while you’re on the road? Makes sense.
About the same time, Michael Feldstein invited me to TripIt. I get a fair amount of invitations to apps like Plaxo, which I plan to try out at some point, sooner if Google buys them, and Spock, which I’m officially ignoring. This was a new one, so I tabled it for later. A couple days after, I read Joel Spolsky’s (a.k.a. Joel on Software) glowing review of Tripit, which was enough to get me over the hump.
Joel is correct. TripIt is awesome, and there’s less overlap with Dopplr than I expected. TripIt has the social features, a network, sharing trips, etc. However, you can get value from TripIt without ever sharing trips or using the network.
Plus, it has a singularly killer feature. From the TripIt site:
- Email your TripIt your travel plans — no matter where you booked.
- TripIt builds you a master itinerary with all your plans and more.
- With TripIt, it’s easy to share, print and access your itinerary from anywhere.
- Just forward your travel confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
So, I tried this out with my vacation itinerary for giggles. This was a true test because 1) the email was from a different account than the one I used to register with TripIt, 2) the confirmation email has really bare bones, referencing only a link:
And 3) the trip was booked under my wife’s name.
TripIt quickly responded with a “Welcome to TripIt” email, which showed they created a new account for my email address, since it wasn’t registered. I figured I’d have to resend the mail from my other address to get the trip in the right account and live with duplicate accounts.
Nope. There’s a sweet merge accounts feature, so all I had to do was add the other account and confirm. Very easy and thoughtful. Obviously, they correctly deduced that people will have both business and personal email and travel. They also nailed another issue with travel itineraries; the margin for human error transcribing between itinerary and calendar.
Rich tells me he had issues with the itinerary generated by our internal travel system, but even so, this feature still rocks.
And did I mention that the bare bones email I forwarded was somehow perfectly reproduced in TripIt? Whatever secret sauce they use works like a champ. I’m with Joel on this. The design and function of TripIt represents perfectly what he calls the “Figure It Out school of user interface design”.
Beyond this killer feature, there are other nice to haves. Some highlights: iCal feeds for your own itinerary and for your network connections, “Who’s Close?” to see which contacts will be nearby when you travel, TripSearch which looks like a SideStep-type travel site aggregator, which makes me wonder why I would use SideStep again.
In addition, TripIt aggregates content related to your trip like weather (from NOAA), city information (from Wikipedia), maps (from Google Maps), city pictures (from Flickr), current events (from Eventful, wonder why they chose this over Upcoming), airplane seat advice (from SeatGuru, how much advice can there be?), and dinner reservations (from OpenTable). Sweet. I hear this is called a “mashup”.
Getting back to Dopplr, aside from their UI, which looks good, I can’t really see a useful advantage. Their search had issues when I tried to enter my vacation destination, and even though Dopplr has first-mover advantage (i.e. a larger network), TripIt does not require the network to realize its utility. It could be used as a standalone travel planner without any networking.
Rich made a good point about Dopplr over Twitter:
He was in Germany at the time, not Denver, so as he said, “it’s give or take 10,000 KM”.
Anyway, TripIt rules. Let me know if you want an invite.
Don’t expect much content while I’m gone. Paul will be busy doing VP things. Rich and Anthony are working to finish the groups remodel, so expect a redesigned Groups home soon. They’re also working on some sexy UI stuff, you know eye candy, to make Mix sizzle more.
See you next week.
Update: Rich complained that TripIt didn’t handle his itinerary from our corporate travel agency, which was a bit of a downer. However, looking at the TripIt corporate blog, apparently they plan to support business travelers as well as independents by including commonly used corporate booking tools and agencies.
How much do I love TripIt? So much awesomeness.