There's a building tension between two travel sites that I currently use to manage my travel plans, Tripit and Dopplr. Tripit is going after the professional crowd (with a seemingly web1.0 approach) looking to manage their travel plans, while Dopplr works for travelers at large, as it provides strong tools for sharing travel plans. Here's a quick comparison.
Lets look at the strengths of each site.
- auto data entry. just fwd your reservation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. its really that simple.
- User interface - Social network, sharing travel information - Tech (microformats, gmail integration, widgets map integration,)
Tripit's reservation e-mail processing is amazing. Its so stupid, and so simple and just works. I make reservations, I forward those confirmation emails to email@example.com, and my itinerary is created. A website that actually does work for me, and creates value? Thats a huge success in today's world of infinite startups, creating software for every niche imaginable. In particular, I'm a huge fan of sites that provide very functional free tools for a user base, and then find other ways to monetize it (Angelsoft, del.icio.us,mint.com, etc)
Why is that not enough in this case for Tripit to really take over?
There's nothing engaging about the site itself. I rarely need to go to the site, unlike mint.com. I fwd the emails from my email inbox, and then right before my trip I go look at my trip itinerary (on the web or mobile editions). I go to the site for a very specific reason, and its almost gauranteed that I'm not going to spend any time there browsing around, or making travel reservations (I already have my travel site routine mapped out with Kayak and TripAdvisor).
Dopplr on the other hand, despite not providing a truly valuable tool up front, has provided value through its network, and giving me the ability to share. It was easy to find my friends on the site, and I keep getting invites from people that are joining the site. Because these people (my connections) are on the site, I feel compelled to go back and input my data manually (which I hate doing in general!), and often I'll end up browsing around to look at all the new connections and their upcoming trips.
Its a different kind of "stickiness". Tripit is sticky because it processes my data for me, while dopplr is sticky because of the network.
Josh Lowensohn at webware in his review of Dopplr, makes some similar comment attributing Dopplr's success to underground appeal and social approach. Julien at Macro Principles also writes about Dopplr's ability to do more with less, and get more coverage in the blog world than Tripit.
Its a subtle difference, so in a future post I want to explore what specifically Dopplr has that Tripit is missing.
In the meantime, combine the two, and you've got the best of both worlds! Business travelers coming in for the robust itinerary tools then sticking around to share their travel information with business partners, friends, and family.