Later today VibeAgent, a site that lets users find, rate and review hotels, will be announcing their site is out of beta at the PhoCusWright travel conference in Orlando.
We previously covered VibeAgent during their private beta and handed out some invites on Inviteshare. The easiest way to describe the site is as a more social TripAdvisor, which the company clearly wants to take down. Currently the site only deals with hotels, though. Members can log on to post reviews, ask questions, finding travel agents, and use some new features like mapping their trips. The system expresses a clear network effect, getting better at recommendations as you and your friends put more in the system.
The big question is whether VibeAgent will draw enough users to the site in order to generate a network effect. It doesn’t hurt that VibeAgent is prettier and a bit easier to use than TripAdvisor’s rather dated design. Still they’re yet another startup hoping to re-map the “social graph” to provide a more personalized experience.
However, their most touted feature is a socially powered search, which ranks hotel search results based on your reviews and those of your friends/groups on the site. The idea is that the trusted reviews through social networks are more important than anonymous ratings. If you happen to not have any friends on the site, you can also search through all reviews by general concepts, like “hip” or “for golfers”.
Their engine searches over 120,000 hotels amongst Priceline.com, Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn, Skoosh, and Booking.com. While it worked well for big cities like San Francisco, California they missed results for some cities in the East Bay. VibeAgent needs to nail the product for the anti-social users before it expects people to feel comfortable investing their time into the system. I can’t see the service knocking out Trip Advisor with it’s seven years of accumulated reviews unless they can at least meet that basic need.