Saturday, April 22, 2006

Visited Countries

Came across a neat little web app the other day called Visited Countries which manipulates the palette of a gif image on the fly to create a map of all the countries you've visited. Turns out I'm not as well travelled as I thought...

Monday, April 03, 2006

TripAdvisor (or How Web 1.0 can still be cool)

Every once in a while I come across a website which doesn't just make me think "wow, that's kinda cool", but actually makes a tangible difference to my quality of life and reminds me just how spectacularly life-changing the internet can be. TripAdvisor is one such website. Very much lacking in Web 2.0 credentials, TripAdvisor succeeds on the strength of its basic premise (aggregating user reviews of hotels from across the world) rather than flawless execution.

The submission process is decidedly Web 1.0, relying on a form upload which has to be okayed by TripAdvisor staff before it appears on the site (normally a couple of days later). You can upload photos alongside your review and rate the hotel against a set of predefined criteria (Rooms, Service, Value, Cleanliness, Pool) as well as recommending an appropriate demographic (e.g. ideal for honeymooners) and rating other reviews as helpful or not.

However, the power of the site only really becomes apparent when you're actually trying to book a hotel. No longer do you have to rely on your ability to read between the lines of the estate agent doublespeak which dominates the commercial booking sites. The traveller now has a voice which carries and crap hotels will be named and shamed.

TripAdvisor's other great strength is the size of its database (4 million reviews and counting), which trumps similar sites which invariably seem to tell me "This hotel hasn't been reviewed yet. Be the first to review it!"

Admittedly, a Web 2.0 makeover wouldn't go a miss. Being able to keep track of your friends' hotel reviews would be nice, as would a rating system based on reviewers rather than reviews. An API could also be pretty handy. I'm thinking a mashup with Flickr and The Weather Underground, which could provide a more comprehensive set of criteria for deciding where to head off on holiday (and save me having to endlessly flick between browser tabs).

None of which seems terribly likely as the site is owned by Expedia, who no doubt see it as little more than another way of pushing traffic to their sales site. However, even if it doesn't embrace the Ajax-coated future, it's still responsible for securing me five glorious days in Portugal and for that I'm immensely grateful.