The Travel Startup Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Going Live

So we are finally live...well that is if you count an early prototype/alpha release/test version as live (which it seems just about every hip tech startup does these days ;-) Basically this is the humble beginnings of a service that has very different take on travel. But you may ask, how is our take different? The response may seem silly, but have you ever spun a globe and put your finger on it to see where it stops? Or thrown a dart at a map to see where it lands? It's the wonder of finding out where you can go, and what you might find when you get there. It may seem cliche, but the discovery of new places and new perspective is part of what makes travel so exciting. And so our vision is to take such a mentality and build a new type of travel service around it. One that integrates instead of segments. One that asks the question: when I'm going to travel somewhere, whether it be to the next town over or across the world, what "stuff" do I want to know? It's on that question, that we are building our service.

But enough with this 'big picture' talk, lets run through what we have so far and how it works:

Flight Searches

Yes, yes, we know there are plenty of websites that "do flights". But think of what we are doing as more Google than Expedia. What we mean by this is that we are all about helping you find information about flights in a simple, unbiased manner - we are not trying to sell you a flight. In fact we make no money what so ever on flights. Now a glance at our flight search page more or less looks like a typical web form used to input travel information (well that is minus the annoying blinking ads that most travel sites have). But behind those simple four boxes is a whole new way to think about flights.

Normally when you go to an Expedia type site you must already know all the info about your trip. That is to say you need to know where you are going, when you're going there, and so forth. And of course if you don't know that stuff and just put in what you do know, you usually will get some stupid error about needing to fill in a field. But... since our team is made up of travelers and not stuffy corporate suits, one has to ask themselves, why do i need to know this stuff? For example, say I want to go somewhere for an upcoming extended holiday weekend, and I'm trying to choose between a few places. Well the traditional way to do it is to put one by one each of those places I'm considering as a flight destination - this of course gets rather boring after a while. In fact, one of our friends recently commented that they spent four hours looking at different combinations of flights just to decide between going to Jamaica or Barbados.

So the simple beauty of our design (patent pending of course ;-) is a seamless process that allows you to first figure out where to go, then decide when to go, and finally lookup which flight to go on.

First to decide where to go, simply fill in what you know (namely where you are leaving from) in our flight form and leave everything else blank. What you'll get is a cool little mashup (we call it destination view) showing you an estimate of how much it will cost to go to various places. Of course those crazy airlines change prices all the time but, at least you can see what kind of prices other Travature users have found recently... and thats a darn good start. Now, once you see a place your interested in, you have two options: First, you can click on the map marker of a place you might be interested in, giving you a little summary of the city and the link to the corresponding travel guide (if you want to do further research). And second, when you're ready to find out more info about flights to a particular place, just click on the link and it'll take you to our next step: deciding when to go.

So now say you now know where you want to go, but you're trying to decide when might be the best day to leave on. Well obviously a calendar is probably the best way to see things. So we call this (surprise, surpise) calendar view; you can either get there by leaving the dates blank on our flight form or from clicking the link in the previous destination view we talked about. Simple eh? Of course the calendar view, similar to the destination view, shows prices of various dates you can fly based on what other Travature users have found recently. And again, those crazy airlines change prices a lot, but this pricing 'sneak-peak' should help you get an idea of whether or not taking a day off work early and leaving on a Thursday instead of a Friday is that much cheaper. And of course once you have a date, just click the link in that calendar cell and you'll be taken to the final step: deciding which flight.

So now that you know where you want to go, and when you want to go (and hey if your old school, you probably already knew it), then put all your info in the flight search form. Leave the return date blank for oneway, and fill it in for roundtrip. Of course clicking on a date in the cal view will do the same thing. And either way, heres where we really start acting like Google instead of Expedia. Our final flight view, is a realtime search of your specific flight info on nearly all the various airline and travel sites. The result is sort of like if you went to, say, and directly and put in the same flight info to see which comes up the cheapest. Of course we search a whole bunch more than two sites, and we put it all together so you can compare on the fly. For the tech savy among you, you will recognize this as metasearching. These results will show a bunch of flights offered on various sites, and the key here is that like Google these are links. This may seem a bit confusing for people unfamiliar with metasearching, but understand that by searching what each site is publishing we can give you completely unbiased flight results and let you decide which flight you want to go on, and who you want to book through.

See wasn't that fun? We took you from not knowing anything about a trip except where you'd be leaving from (and if you don't know that part, we can't help you much there) and helped you figure out everything you need: from where to go, to when you should go, to who you should book a flight through. Good stuff, oh and um, happy flying!

Travel Guides

Just about every Internet user on the planet knows Wikipedia, the great open community driven encyclopedia that started the "wiki" craze. For us we've taken this concept of free, open, editable, and community driven content and extend it to travel guides. The concept itself is not necesarily new but how we plan to build and integrate it will be. You can see the beginnings of this by seeing the visual heirachy of guides we display on the maps. On the main guide page you can browse the continent guides, on a continent travel guide page, you can see the country travel guides created within it, on the country travel guides,,,well you get the idea. And of course if you've already looked at a flight you'll see that the travel guide summarys are integrated into the flights you are looking at. This sort of groovy cross integration is only the beginning of where we are going. But all the coolness in the world will only go so far if the content sucks. So over the next few months we plan to build our content into something that really offers quality and value to travel research. We envision something more than just whats offered on every other online travel page, our goal is to offer the kind of quality info you'd expect to find in a travel book you'd buy in the store. We hope you can be a part as we build to that.
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