In the days of yore, travel guides were written by intrepid travelers who spent months scribbling in diaries and field journals, or by teams of adventurous souls exhaustively scrap booking their travel experiences into the Lonely Planets of the world. Over the last decade, however, the Web has produced an untold number of personal travel blogs, digital photo albums, community-built travel guides like Tripadvisor and Wikitravel, and cool travel resources like Gogobot.
Today, Jon Tirsen and Douwe Osinga, two ex-Googlers, are officially unveiling their new mobile travel guide Triposo, which doesn’t want to just throw out the old model, it wants to do what Google did for the world’s information: Aggregate that sucka and make it easily searchable. Simply put, Triposo is based on the simple idea that travel guides can be designed in the same way that Google based its aggregation and search on some kick ass algorithms. And a little bit of indexing and semantic icing to boot.
To that end, travel guides like Triposo are possible today, because the content is there. Sites like Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and Openstreetmap have swaths of travel-related content, and Triposo wants to be the site that ranks that content so well you’ll never have to use another preachy, paper-based travel book. The environment will thank you.
Thus, the Triposo algorithm takes travel information from seven of the biggest open source aggregators (and several closed resources as well) and serves its users with content that’s relevant for them. Without any human interference, Triposo COO Richard Osinga tells me, the startup produces travel guides, with information on sightseeing, nightlife and restaurants, all ordered by Triposo’s algorithm — and complete with an easy-to-use (and offline-enabled) map. That very offline functionality in and of itself makes Triposo’s free mobile apps worth downloading.
Along with its web app, Triposo also offers 30 free destination guides for iOS using the same approach. The startup plans to release an iOS world guide, in which users can download a complete travel guide for any destination in the world, next month. Android users, on the other hand, can already find a world travel guide and guides for select cities here.
Triposo has been polishing its travel content algorithms for over a year now, and launched a swath of city guides for iOS and Android to test the algorithmic waters and user response. So far, people are using the guides on average of 20 minutes per session — so far, so good. But the end goal for Triposo is really to hone its all-in-one world travel guides, so that users can pick a destination anywhere across the globe and easily find the best cities and destinations to visit.
But how does Triposo choose these recommended destinations? “One of the things we also use intensively for our ranking algorithms are photographs”, said Co-founder Douwe Osinga. “We have a collection of a few million travel photos geotagged — with time stamps. How many pictures are taken at a place, at what time, on what day: That all helps us decide how important a location is”.
Of course, an algorithm-based company is only as good as its, well, algorithm. At the end of the day, travelers may prefer to receive personalized recommendations on destinations from their friends, or people they trust. (Or self-curated as one commenter pointed out.) And from this perspective, Triposo’s human-less recommendation platform may not suit everyone; but at the same time, it’s nice to have a free mobile app that works the same for everyone regardless. It may miss the mark for some, but the iPad app looks great, and so far, the algorithm hasn’t let me down. Amsterdam, here I come.
Along with platform unveiling, Triposo also told TechCrunch that it has raised $525,000 in seed financing from angel investors, including Chris Sacca, Taher Haveliwala, Google Wave Co-founder and Google Maps Lead Engineer Lars Rasmussen, and InterWest Partners.
The founders said that they will use this new infusion of capital to continue optimizing its algorithm, working towards the goal of becoming the best possible web and mobile destination to answer: Where should I go next? The question, however, for Triposo, is what their revenue model will be when the money runs out. Premium features? Paid apps? More to come.
For more on the interactive travel guides startup, check them out here. Let us know what you think. Travel content algorithms: Yay or nay?