Picture this. You’re preparing to go to London, someplace you’ve never been. You bought a guidebook, but those get dated fast, so beyond the typical tourist attractions listed, you aren’t sure what information is accurate and current. So you go online, log into a website, post your trip itinerary, and said website connects to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now your friends can leave suggestions about what to see and do and where to eat. Armed with this list, you’re now prepared to see London.
Or maybe you land in London, open up an app, and follow the same process.
Either way, you have crowdsourced information from the people you trust the most: your friends. Your friends might not be travel experts, but they know what you like so when you ask, “What’s a good place to eat in London?” chances are they have a good suggestion for you.
That’s exactly what Trippy does. Or, should I say, is supposed to do.
When Trippy came out months ago, I could barely contain my excitement. This app did exactly what I described above. Revolutionary! I thought to myself. This is going to change how people get travel information. A new service that allows you to bring together your social networks, easily get advice from friends, and share your trip was exactly a service people would use. It was brilliant.
I get pitched dozens of apps each week, but I thought this…this is something I would use all the time! It definitely filled a void in the market. The introduction video was amazing:
So I eagerly signed up—and found I couldn’t do half of what was promised. No big deal. Trippy was still in beta, and I’d let it work out the bugs before I made my final judgment. Let them add the features and straighten things out. I know apps and such are never perfect on day one.
But months went by, and I heard nothing more. There were no blog posts about Trippy, no annoying PR emails in my inbox about the service, no big marketing campaigns, and no articles on major magazines or websites. Heck, Tim Ferriss is part of the board, and even he had no blog post about it! Trippy just seemed to fade away.
Then a few weeks ago, Trippy had a huge relaunch. They announced their official advisory board, which consists of a whole lot of big-name writers, tech people, celebrities, and social media folks. It’s a powerhouse board, but the real news in their announcement was they said they were going to create a Pinterest-style site. When I read that, I was gobsmacked.
I took a break from writing my book, downloaded the latest version of the app to my phone and said, “Well, maybe I missed the big updates.”
Logging into trippy.com, my home screen looked like this:
I was confused. Why am I looking at Pinterest? I thought. Where are my friend’s trips? Where are mine? OHHH! I finally see them—hidden in the top right corner in a drop-down menu so as to not take away focus from the boards.
Next, I opened up my app to find…nothing. Sure, there were a few changes, but I still can’t:
1. Connect to Twitter via the app to tweet. (You can do it on the website, though.)
2. Tag people in photos.
3. Find my friends via Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare and add them to my friends list.
4. Check into places on Foursquare.
5. Have a default newsfeed for my friends’ trips.
6. Book hotels directly like the video says I can.
7. Create a profile and add friends of friends (i.e., like Facebook).
While on the website, I can tweet and share my trips on Facebook, but it’s not automatic. I have to do it manually. I think there should be an automatic setting that lets my friends see my trip similar to how Pinterest is integrated into Facebook’s newsfeed. Moreover, I have to manually ask friends for help on Facebook. But I can only do that on the website as there’s no integration on the app. And, they can’t give me advice unless they’re signed into Trippy. Most people aren’t going to join a new service out of the blue. People should be able to leave comments on trips made via the website. (On the app, I can see a case for just having it made available to signed-in users.) The app and site just seem to still be in some perpetual beta.
Now, I like Pinterest. I don’t use it, but I get why it’s popular. It’s a good service to share pretty photos, fashion, recipes, and home décor. It collates pretty things into one place and everyone loves pretty things. Win-win. And with its amazing Facebook integration, it’s here to stay for a while.
But Trippy isn’t Pinterest. It shouldn’t be Pinterest. I loved Trippy because it was a social planning website. That was something I needed. It should be what that amazing video says it was going to be. Outside of about 25 dedicated travel writers, I don’t know anyone who uses Trippy, which is a real shame. If it had stuck to its original mission, fixed those bugs, better integrated itself into Facebook, and let me finally tweet, search for friends, and share photos, I bet a ton of people would have signed up for it.
After all, studies have shown recently that around 30% of people use social media to get trip recommendations. Trippy was supposed to make that process easier.
After playing around with Trippy, hoping I was just doing something wrong, and realizing I wasn’t, I deleted the app from my iPhone with a heavy heart. I mean, I was so excited about Trippy when it came out that I was sad to see it fail. But Trippy seems to want to move away from the crowdsourcing aspect and become simply a Pinterest for travel, not a trip-planning site for friends.
Crowdsourcing is the way of the future
In my mind, Trippy failed because it strayed from its original (and awesome) mission and because it was poorly marketed. (I bet most of you have never even heard of Trippy.) Trippy tells me only 27 of my 1200 Facebook friends are connected to it. Most of my friends are a travel and tech-savvy bunch, so I expected a lot more to be on. In fact, I bet a large portion of my friends would sign up if they knew about it, as they tend to be hardcore travelers.
But a crowdsourcing, social-planning travel site is only as good as those using it. And frankly, not a lot of my friends are using it, and they can only comment on my trips if they join. But why join a network that has no one you know on it?
Even though Trippy is a failure, I think there’s a huge future in crowdsourcing for travel. There are a number of other sites out there (Gtrot is a good one, but that site needs to make itself more social and have a mobile app), but I think Trippy had the best idea and goals. It just lost its way. There’s nothing wrong with making a travel site photo heavy—travel is very visual. But instead of making Pinterest, they could have made the photos in the trip-planning area bigger. Look at how tiny it is:
Wouldn’t time and money have been better spent making that look better?
In the age of the Internet, people get ideas the way they used to before big advertising: from friends. Why listen to an ad on TV or in a magazine when you can log onto Facebook and ask your buddy who suddenly moved to London if something is good or not? Or email a blogger and say, “Matt, I know you go to Thailand a lot, what are your recommendations?” Or ask Aunt Ida what the name was of that good sushi restaurant in Japan she ate at.
I never use guidebooks when I travel now. I ask people online for food and hostel recommendations. My friends know my tastes.
Social media makes it easier to reach out to friends and get recommendations for everything related to your trip. There are so many social networks out there that having one place that connects them would be very useful.
A program that does that will fill an incredible void. Being able to open an app, create a trip, automatically share it, allow people to comment, book reservations right there, and overall, do exactly what that video above promises will be the next big thing. But when you create too many steps and too much clutter, you give people less incentive to do more than just post a status update on Facebook asking where they should stay in Paris.
A website/app that lets you easily crowdsource travel information can succeed and become popular with the public.
So long as it just sticks to the goal of connecting friends and travel.