No, it’s no vacation.  It’s the loud foot stomping of behind the door positioning in the travel vertical of the modern web wars!  In fact, the positioning is more like a game of Twister, and although I am not sure anyone is going to fall, someone is surely going to get tangled up.  Is that Expedia / Tripadvisor? Facebook?  Google?  What about ITA?  Maybe it will simply be Yelp.

Here we go!

A professional acquaintance proudly showed me the TIG blog post on Hotel Marketing today.  Honestly, for a hotelier, being posted on Hotel is pretty much as famous as it gets.  Maybe that says a lot about our industry, but it’s like TMZ catching you being an idiot at a club.  I am not kidding.  You celebrate!

The full article, found here, is about Google Places Instant Search… and their domination and growth within the Travel Search market.  Well it just got me thinking how much is really going on… and what sort of trip we are going to go on to get us from “here” – archaic UI on horrid OTA sites – to “there” – the future of a semantically aware, capable, thoughtful web.

Something I don’t stress below is that I am talking mobile throughout the entire article, because at this point mobile is desktop search, and desktop search should basically be mobile & at the very least local (even with the grasping of an IP’s GPS to know where you are). The upshot being that they are one in the same.  If you aren’t mobile, you are going to fail, because we basically want to get to the point that both work equally, as efficiently, and interchangeably (there are already apps that let you “slide” your desktop’s browser tabs into your mobile phone for when you are on the go).  Hyperlocality is the future.. and if you don’t know where your user is coming from, and where they are – you are losing out on vital information that means lost revenues across the board.

In regards to TIG blog article about Places… they certainly have come a long way in a short time.  It used to be Local Business Center, “Google Local” to the consumer.  Then they changed it to “Places” to compete with mobile marketing like Yelp and Foursquare – and Facebook.  As Facebook partners with Tripadvisor, I think you are going to see google move into it’s own generated content – reviews, etc.  The Yelp deal with Google failed, while Facebook users are generating content from the for Tripadvisor reviews.  That means Google has very little native content while Expedia waits in the wings to partner with Facebook.

But Google just bought ITA for their travel plans, and they have all these small apps like Google City Tours and their labs in the “Maps” and Google Earth….  there is so much independent development throughout Google that deals with Travel, the vertical they establish will immediately make them the industry leader.

The OTA’s are dinosaurs at this point… they’re going to get blown away in the next couple years.  I see Facebook positioning, but don’t get their plan. Even with a smart plan, and the likes of Expedia / Tripadvisor, I don’t think people use Facebook with the thought of commerce or being a consumer… so I am not sure where that’s going.  They have some big hurdles.

But Google Places + Maps + ITA + their travel sector with their grasp of mobile and domination of search…. something amazing is going to come out of that.  Google is launching a “stratified” social network that will be less insular and more open than Facebook, crossing websites evenly instead of being a closed system…. that comes sometime next year.  It is true they could keep aggregating content, which falls in line with their plan to store the world’s data – but I imagine they get more serious about their own content because of it’s value.

The changes happening online right now are fascinating – if you have any thoughts or opinion I want to hear it.  It’s time to be a Futurist – be Nostradamus.  Anything can happen at this point… we’re simply pontificating on eventualities.  It won’t be until the end of our trip we can see the destination. =)

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