Travel Site TripAdvisor Buys Tiny Post To Fill Out Its Mobile And Social Ambitions

TripAdvisor, the travel site built around destination guides and user reviews, today made another acquisition: it has bought Tiny Post, an iOS app that lets users take pictures, write captions over them, and then share them with people on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it looks like this was both an acqui-hire as well as a product acquisition. The team behind Tiny Post, including founders Dick Brouwer and Melissa Miranda, will join TripAdvisor’s Palo Alto office; and TripAdvisor’s CEO Steve Kaufer and one of the co-founders are both describing Tiny Post itself as a “great fit” with the rest of TripAdvisor’s business.

“We are really excited about joining the TripAdvisor family,” Miranda writes in an email. “This all started with an idea to improve travel during a year-long trip we made around the world,” she said, referring to the original impetus for the startup… not the acquisition. “It’s a great fit.”

From a statement issued by TripAdvisor:

“The Tiny Post team have created a wonderful app that shows the possibilities of combining travel photos with social and mobile. We think Tiny Post is a great fit with our continued drive to provide engaging and sharable content and I am happy to welcome this strong team to TripAdvisor.”

This is not TripAdvisor’s first acquisition by a long shot — it’s bought at least 11 companies since we started tracking them in 2007. But it is the first since December 2012, when Liberty Interactive took a majority stake in the company for $300 million. Today, TripAdvisor says that it gets 200 million unique monthly visitors and features over 100 million reviews and opinions across 30 countries, with its service in China branded TripAdvisor tells me that about 75% of its monthly traffic comes from outside the U.S.

This will give Tiny Post potentially a much, much bigger audience for its service. Rebranded to Tiny Post in August 2012 from its original name of Tiny Review, it started life incubated in the 500 Startups program in February 2012, where it was praised for being an “Instagram for reviews“.

Reviews, of course, are a core element of what TripAdvisor also offers. It uses them to help rate hotels, restaurants and other services. In this sense it competes against companies like Yelp and Foursquare, big players in mobile-based search for local venues with a heavy emphasis on user reviews.

This provides a key to how TripAdvisor may end up using Tiny Post, or a variation of its service: users are already uploading hundreds of their own images to TripAdvisor to fill out data about locations and specific venues; this will give users another way of presenting that data, specifically from a mobile platform. Right now, Trip Advisor’s iPhone apps (a general one for accessing the overall site; and another focused on city guides) are more geared at accessing data already on the site than they are about uploading new data.

Playing on the Lolcats-inspired concept of photos with messages across them, this could also prove to be a way of jumping up the number of users engaging with TripAdvisor — particularly on mobile — and could help it better target the younger demographics that so love to create and ride on memes.

While this is one of TripAdvisor’s first big mobile moves, it has been making other acquisitions to fill out its social ambitions. They include WanderFly, which was bought in October 2012. Wanderfly offers online travel bookers the option of doing so in a social way — using other users’ reviews throughout the process to help made decisions. This exists in addition to TripAdvisor’s integration with Facebook’s social graph — which has largely become table stakes for any online business that wants to expand the social dimensions of its service.

The Wanderfly deal is perhaps a sign of how TripAdvisor may use its Tiny Post acquisition going forward: while Wanderfly’s people may be feeding products and ideas into the larger TripAdvisor experience, the standalone service also remains active today.