TripIt; the future of travel planning or the first semantic online travel tool?

December 7, 2007

I’ve held off blogging about TripIt until I could do it full justice. I can’t trial the system and haven’t looked at it in enough detail to give it a full assessment but I can’t ignore something with this potential any longer so I’m going to give it a quick mention anyway (I’m sure there’ll be more about this to come).

TripIt is an online travel planner/organiser with a bit of a difference. They’ve taken a different approach to most of these systems and rather than have you fill out all your details to then share or add to they let you forward your travel booking confirmation emails to their servers so they can extract data and meaning from them. TripIt then build a master itinerary out of all the meaningful data it can extract and present that back to you. You can then access it from anywhere and share it with whoever you like. It only works with certain airlines, hoteliers and other travel providers emails so has it’s limitations at the moment but the idea is sound.

In fact the idea is more than sound in my opinion. I think it’s fairly groundbreaking in the travel and also the online arena. Extracting meaningful data out of something as mundane as email confirmations is a great idea. Ordering the items by date and time and presenting them back in a nice interface that can be accessed easily from multiple device types is even better. Then imagine allowing users to add more stuff to the itinerary themselves, say even before they leave (transport to the airport, perhaps dropping the dog off at kennels) and you have a way to plan the full holiday experience much more easily. This offers a multitude of opportunities to then present offers and cross sells to entice users to buy something from TripIts’ partners as well. Very smart!

Now TripIt have announced support for various calendaring solutions such as Google Calendar, Outlook and any other iCal supporting software. You can export your itinerary to your calendar which is very cool! They also announced support for PDF confirmations, address book import functions and international support for things like temperature (which they display with destinations).

All in it’s a fantastic idea and I really hope they nail the trip planning concept! They seem to have the right entrepreneurial spirit to go far. For instance they were in the Techcrunch 40 event which shows they mix in the right circles and can hold their own with real web people not just travel (which is refreshing).

Now, all the rest of us need to do is start using Microformats to describe the mark-up in our confirmation emails, then get TripIt to support hCalendar and then we can all get involved!

Note: I mention semantic as I believe the way TripIt extracts meaning from email content is a real step towards a semantic application.

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