Tripl, a social travel start-up, has run up against one of the main challenges that has faced other competitors in the space: namely, that travel planning isn’t a daily activity. But while others have gone the Pinterest route, using more pictures to help inspire users, Tripl has refocused its efforts on making it easy to see all the trips your friends are taking.
The New York start-up, part of the latest DreamIt Ventures’ accelerator class in New York, has built a personalized filtering service that ingests your friends’ Facebook (s fb) and Foursquare feeds and organizes their travel data into stories on a timeline, so you can see where your friends are off to. It’s kind of like video recommendation services ShowYou or Shelby.tv, only this is for travel data.
It may sound simple, or perhaps a little stalkerish, but there’s some real intelligence going on in the background, as Tripl understands when your friends are on the road, more than 100 miles away from home. It then aggregates their pictures, comments and check-ins into a discrete story, complete with Wikipedia information, stock photos and pricing data on flights. For example, my friend Mike was in Toronto on a trip for several days last week. Tripl understands that he’s away from home and starts pulling in all his check-ins into one story. By visiting his story, I can see where he’s checked in, what pictures he’s taken on the trip and what comments he’s left at different places. It’s all put together into a visually appealing package that ends when he’s back at home. Users who sign-up can also get daily and weekly emails alerting them to new stories.
The service will add Instagram any day now and is looking at Twitter integration as well. That’s no small task, trying to determine the identity of friends across different social graphs and ensuring that all their updates, pictures and check-ins on various services can get collected into one story. Tripl is also hoping to add more content about popular locations from travel publications. An iPhone app (s aapl) is a couple weeks away.
Peter Sullivan, the co-founder of Tripl, told me that the new service was developed over the last three weeks as the team of seven tried to figure out a simpler way to engage users. He said the filtering service works because it doesn’t require your friends to sign up with Tripl, but instead just automatically organizes your friends’ travel information into readable stories. He said many beta users are finding that their friends are taking 15-20 trips a week.
“For the first time, you’re able to see where your friends are traveling to and where they’ve been before,” Sullivan said.
Tripl was originally founded by Sullivan while he was studying for an MBA in Stockholm, Sweden. The initial idea was to help people connect with friends, and friends of friends, in the cities where a user was planning to travel, so they could get advice and recommendations from a local. That service, which launched in beta in December, is still part of the larger road map, but the team is concentrating now on the story filtering service to build critical mass. And if it can become popular enough, Sullivan said it could be used by travel publications and online travel services as a form of re-engagement layer.
After checking out the service, I have to say it’s kind of fun. I can currently tell when my friends are on the road by random pictures and check-ins on my Facebook newsfeed or from their Foursquare check-ins. But it’s nice to be able to have it all collected into one narrative, so you can follow along and see what they did. I’m not sure it will inspire me to make trips I wasn’t planning already. But it does get me into the mode of thinking about future travel plans. And at the very least, it’s just enjoyable to see what people are doing, especially now at the height of vacation season.
I like that Tripl doesn’t require my friends to be part of the service to see their stories. Some other social travel services are stuck in that dilemma now because many of the more useful features require your friends to sign-up. And with some of the Pinterest-style travel services, the pictures are sometimes places people want to go to, but not necessarily somewhere they’ve been to already. This is a record of real journeys your friends have been on. This might not be the one thing that provides a breakthrough for social travel start-ups, but I imagine I will come back to see what my friends are up to.