Wall Street Journal: Travel Web site Gogobot’s launch this week of an iPhone app that provides travelers with an interactive trip planner—and a nifty postcard creator—makes so much sense that one is baffled about why they did not launch it sooner.
True, the travel business that allows users to tap into their social networks for travel tips and recommendations only went public in November. Add to that the fact that the San Francisco-based company, despite a full year of great press, remains small with only six engineers. But what could be more mobile-worthy than travel? Why start with a travel Web site at all?
Gogobot Co-Founder Travis Katz told Digits that he and Co-Founder Ori Zaltzman, seriously considered building out the mobile app first, but soon realized that making money in the travel space comes through the percentages made off of online bookings as well as advertisements. People are not doing that as much on mobile Katz told Digits. Although that is changing. According to Forrester, U.S. mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016, a 500% growth from 2011 mobile commerce projections.
For now, however, the Web site does the pre-trip heavy lifting–collecting travel recommendations from a user’s social network, building itineraries, booking hotels, etc.
The trip plan created on the Web site becomes an interactive and portable trip planner on the iPhone. Using the smartphone’s GPS, travelers can get directions to itinerary items or discover places around them—imagine a Yelp for road warriors. There is also a postcard creating application where travelers can apply photo effects—a la Instagram—to their photos before sending to their social network. Users can also use the app to rate and review places.
Asked how reviews crafted on the iPhone will differ from reviews on the iPhone, Katz said that they will undoubtedly be much shorter, of course. But the nature and tone should be the same, he said, noting that because Gogobot is about tapping into the social network for travel ideas and recommendations, negative reviews are not the norm.
If Gogobot’s positive spirit—and reliance on real names—kills the art of the negative review, the mobile app does resurrect a lost travel art, the travel album. Digital photography has allowed people to take way too many photos, Katz said. And when they bulk upload the photos to a service such as Flickr, the context gets lost. “You don’t remember that beach or restaurant,” he said.
Katz is hoping that the app’s postcard function, which encourages users to document a moment on the spot, will change that.