18.09.2007 -17 °C
I try and keep abreast of interesting news in the tech industry via a blog called techcrunch (currently looks like it's offline - hmmmm). Every now and then an interesting new travel site will pop up and I'll check it out. Today, as part of an event called Techcrunch40 which introduces a bunch of new startups, there was a bit of information on a new travel site called TripIt.
To be quite honest, the coverage was of the type that made me think; hmmm, is that it? But it was short and the write up messy, so it was interesting to find an email in my inbox from their PR people (some companies really know how to launch in style ) about 10 minutes later with a bit more information.
I consider myself quite plugged in to the world that is online travel websites and I spend a good deal of time checking out new sites that offer something different. This looked like it fitted the bill and would be useful (something most aren't unfortunately...). It could of course just be because we've had similar ideas ourselves of course
Anyway, in short this is what they do:
- User signs up with TripIt
- User emails booking confirmation to a fixed email address
- TripIt automatically reads the email(s) and creates a master itinerary for you online. Useful services (Google maps, weather, SeatGuru seat advice, flickr pics etc) that you might need and that are relevant to your destination are added.
- You can then share this with friends etc. through some social networking tools, print out an itinerary (which if you've combined several bookings is neat) or download to your calendar/mobile.
This (in theory) sounds like a pretty good idea to me! Okay, so I'm a little peeved why they wouldn't add in Travellerspoint blogs and pics as one of the useful services, but that might just be because they haven't gotten around to contacting me yet
Essentially the service revolves around what their PR person puts like this
A traveler simply forwards their travel confirmation emails – no matter where they booked - and the TripIt “Itinerator” instantly incorporates them into their master itinerary
That does sound cool, especially when several emails can all be parsed into one big itinerary automatically with me just having to foward some emails. So I signed up and created an account. I even went the rare extra mile of using my Travellerspoint email address. Seeing as I'm a bit of a nutter, I keep copies of old flight booking confirmations so I dug out one of the most recent ones and sent it off. I was very curious to see how long exactly this process would take. 5 minutes later I was disappointed. There was absolutely no sign of my confirmation anywhere! ARGH! But then I thought, hmmm, how would they know that a confirmation is linked to my account and it hit me that the senders email should probably match the one you used to set up the account. I guess for a lot of people this is not something they'd think about but I have about 15 email addresses and they all end up in one big inbox so sometimes I forget which is sending what. Sure enough, not long after I thought of this an email returned telling me there was a problem with my submission. Well, actually there were 2.
1. Email address was not registered so a new account had been created (note that you actually can add multiple email addresses to one account, I just hadn't thought this all the way through yet)
2. The confirmation couldn't be parsed.
But hang on, what happened to "no matter where they booked"? That's basically the PR company pulling it from somewhere dark because the TripIt site (and the returned email) states that about 40 or so booking confirmation formats are supported at this time. Typical PR company; that's why they charge the big bucks...
Drat. That's the most useful part of this service, otherwise I could just create my own itinerary somewhere by copying and pasting (sites like Virtually There actually do offer this kind of automated things, but your booking would have to be through a company linked with them). Like I said though, I keep copies of booking confirmations so I tried a few more, including 2 KLM bookings (they support Air France which has basically become the same thing) an Expedia and a Lufthansa booking (allowed according to their site).
None of these 6 attempts worked!
That is not cool. Especially because my hotel booking and the Lufthansa one were from sites they claim to allow. What's going on? My guess is that the fact that there's about a million and one variables in these emails (affiliates? html or plain text? pdf attachments? does user type text in the forwarded email or not? etc.) is what makes this so tricky. I appreciate it's tricky developing this, but that's kind of why I thought it would be a nifty tool!
From a personal point of view, I'm also annoyed with a few things like
- Why are the allowed sites focusing primarily on the US. This is annoying even if that is where most startups originate and where a lot of the investors are. Europeans travel a lot more!
- Make the links to 'Cool Web Info' and 'Allowed Sites' clickable; a pet peeve of mine.
- Drop the zip code from the signup form or call it postal code; another pet peeve
In theory, this could be quite a useful website but to get it to work the development team is going to do a much better job than they have so far in parsing out the information from booking confirmations sent in. Yes it only launched officially today, but it's been in testing mode for quite a while so I would have expected a little better results (50% minimum). Most users won't try twice, let alone 6 times like I did. And there are definitely sites out there where you can add in your own details into an itinerary format so going manual is not really going to make them stand out. Some will even map it out in a really cool format like Travellerspoint's maps. Sure it might be old fashioned and require manual input and all, but at least it works
Anyway, it needs work, but could end up being useful for US travellers and others if it manages to handle more confirmation types.