TripAdvisor at 10: An online travel marketing pioneer comes full circle.

Step 1: Trip Friends shows you facebook friends who have visited the city you're traveling to.

After inventing crowd-sourced travel planning 10 years ago, TripAdvisor is going against the conventional wisdom it created and launching a new friends-based recommendation tool.

A website born out of of questioning conventional wisdom.

When Steve Kaufer set up TripAdvisor.com in 2000, people made their travel decisions based on the recommendation of a guidebook, travel agent or a friend.

Steve believed that the opinions of a crowd of strangers was better, and TripAdvisor was born.

A decade later TripAdvisor.com attracts 34 million monthly visitors.

Today, TripAdvisor.com is the world’s largest travel website, with 34 million visitors a month.

Along the way, the website helped popularized user-generated content and paved the way for other online review sites.

How Steve’s innovation changed the way I plan trips.

Today, TripAdvisor.com is one of the first sites I visit before I book travel. It has taught me to base my purchasing decisions for other products and services on the others’ reviews, too.

The limits of crowdsourcing travel decisions.

But I’ve come to realize that just because a hotel is rated highly by the masses doesn’t mean I will like it. And I’ve stayed at a few properties where they knew how to work a better TripAdvisor review out of guests than their service merited.

So it doesn’t surprise me that Steve has come full circle.

This month TripAdvisor announced Trip Friends.

Trip Friends allows you to see which facebook friends have been to the city you’re traveling to.  And to ask them for their recommendations.

Why is TripAdvisor testing a different model?

According to The Economist, Kaufer believes that soon travelers won’t want to wade through 150 reviews to pick a hotel.

In this age where the opinions of strangers are  now a commodity, people will seek familiar and friendly recommendations.

I applaud Steve for his courage in seeing the shift. And being visionary enough to catch the next wave while it’s still too small for many of us to see.


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