In the world of social networks, the division of travel has been fairly untapped, especially as the breadth of information that can be used when it comes to destination plans must be aggregated. TripIt set out to do just this—take all of the info related to travel, flights, hotel, rental car, and activities and consolidate it into one itinerary.
Basic use of the site is focused on the individual and their travel plans, which ranges through several ways in which a user can input information. Currently, TripIt allows users to manually input information into the website for each individual trip, but the more useful feature is automatic integration through its partnerships with Gmail and Hotwire.com. Mostly used for flights, TripIt allows users to input where they are staying, be it a Bed & Breakfast or a Resort, rental car, and what they will be doing during the trip. TripIt then combines all of the information from several sources to give a timeline of the trip while adding useful information such as the weather as a way to give a complete snapshot of the travel. Once the ‘master itinerary’ is compiled, it can then be shared, synced with a mobile device, or added to a calendar.
Historically, TripIt was an independent company, founded in October of 2006. However once their business plan of creating a marketplace to simplify internet travel plan options proved solid, TripIt was acquired by Concur in January of 2011 for $120 million, $27 million of that in cash. Concur describes itself as “a leading provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions,” indicating that the acquisition of TripIt may become more integrated with corporations, rather than the personal and social level that it was once focused on (http://www.concur.com/en-us/about). Regardless, of the acquisition, TripIt still manages to remain relatively popular, bringing in roughly 200,000 unique visitors a month (www.appappeal.com/app/tripit/).
In terms of clout within its market, TripIt is the killer app, the go to network to store all travel documents. In 2008, TripIt took a large step forward for a social network by expanding into the mobile market, creating a mobile web page as well as introducing and Android and iOs applications later on. Because of its ease of use and availability across almost any platform, TripIt seems to be the best way to serve as a personal tool as well as a social platform and it shows. Mashable, a news source for social and digital media, considers it one of the best ways to make travel plans go social. Amongst reviews of other top products, Mashable has rated TripIt as one of the top 4 Social Web Apps for Making and Sharing Your Travel Plans, top 6 essential Android apps for business travel, and explaining that “TripIt is ideal” when planning a vacation using social media.
What makes TripIt so great is the third party applications that have been integrated with the API. As of April 6th, 2011, Tripit has “more than 850 developers and development companies building apps that sync with TripIt.” Each add-on, while not necessary for each user experience, has been used to leverage the power of TripIt’s powerful aggregation module. Below are a few examples of some of the third-party applications that work directly with TripIt:
- Airside Express: Stores and displays boarding passes for flights on a smartphone. Uses TripIt to automatically receive and store boarding passes
- Planely: Receive an alert to see who else is on the same flight as you using TripIt so sync flight information
- Tripline: Helps create ‘shareable trips’ with TripIt itinerary used to create a ‘travel map’
- Memolane: Creates a social timeline, which includes personal travel by syncing with TripIt
Essentially, TripIt has become the solitary social platform for personal travel which other social media rely on. While this ‘third-party reliance’ makes TripIt somewhat boxed into a specific corner of a market, it also helps solidify TripIt as an essential data aggregator online, ensuring its longevity.
While this internet application had a great reputation when it was launched in January of 2008, it didn’t have an enormous social network component (http://www.appappeal.com/app/tripit/). During 2008, TripIt recognized this and added a “Who’s Close” and “Traveler Profile’s” to the website. Now, users on TripIt can add friends share their plans and itineraries with fellow travelers. Now, TripIt has added the “Itinerator” which, when used with other individuals, will “collect all the [trip] data in one place, and will, from that point on, let [users] share your travel calendars if [they] like. In addition, the service even offers location-based friend finder alerts for trips” (http://download.cnet.com/TripIt/3000-2367_4-10802128.html).
Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything quite like TripIt to compare to, making it a difficult social media to judge; however, based on the amount of accolades that TripIt has received, it should follow that the program is almost unanimously enjoyed by those who use it. There are, however, a couple of other social networks that offer a similar user experience which could be considered competition to TripIt. Just after Thanksgiving, Mashable released a list of web services that travellers could use to make and share their plans; included in this list, aside from TripIt, was Dopplr, Bumped.in, and Globetrooper
- Dopplr’s service allows individuals to import trip information (flight & hotel) into the program which is then automatically shared to friends who also use Dopplr. Similar to TripIt, Dopplr doesn’t have quite the ease of use of TripIt and focuses more on being a social network rather than a resource, like TripIt, thus limiting the use of 3rd party applications. Dopplr makes up for this by using a tips system, similar to what Yelp has done. By integrating recommendations into the travel system, Dopplr has differentiated itself from other social networks, but due to its lack of integration and low users, 29,000 unique monthly visitors in September of 2010, Dopplr doesn’t seem to be quite as compelling as TripIt.
- Bumped.in is a travel service which allows users to connect during their travels, whether it is commuting or something further away. The concept is that during your travels, you may bump into someone but often, there is no outlet which allows you to connect. Bumped.in allows users to input their travel information to spontaneously connect to other individuals going the same way. While integrating TripIt’s API into the service, Bumped.in seems to successfully created purely social travel site which, while young, may become quite popular (http://mashable.com/2010/08/27/bumped-in/).
- Globetrooper is similar to Bumped.in, but it a travel service which is much more focused on building trips and traveling together. Relying on its own interface, Globetrooper is very social in how the concept is put together, but unfortunately, with so many trips and so few people using the site, the basis of building a travel site for strangers to connect in an entirely foreign realm seems to have resonated with only a small portion of the internet community (http://mashable.com/2010/06/24/globetrooper/).
While offering the original, yet still robust, package in the original account, TripIt also offers TripIt Pro. TripIt Pro offers a few extra features for $69 a year. These include mobile alerts about flight delays and gate changes, membership at Hertz rent-a-car and other business lounges, the ability to share trips automatically, and keeping track of points. As an average traveller, I don’t see TripIt Pro as necessary, but as a businessman, this consolidation of information could prove to be essential in almost any realm.
Based on how well TripIt has cornered the market as a travel tool as well as a social network and that a large corporation has a vested interest in TripIt succeeding, I believe that TripIt will be around for at least the next few years. Based on its dedicated core users and constant flow of new users, especially after the acquisition by Concor, TripIt has the capabilities to continue evolving to better serve its users. Further, with so many other applications and programs relying on it, TripIt has cemented itself as the go-to place as an internet travel tool. Based on its ease of use and the variety of applications that TripIt can be used for, including driving directions, flight status updates, and hotel reservations, TripIt is a fantastic social tool that should be strongly considered for anyone that makes a habit of traveling.