PHOTO: Facebook homepage. (Photo via Flickr/Christoper)
Count Facebook among the latest technology providers to jump into the travel planning game. The tech giant has launched, in a limited release, its new “City Guides” travel planner app.
Essentially, each city’s guide will give you a list of suggestions of things to see and do in that city. And for users already concerned (or not concerned) about privacy issues on social media, it’s good to note that a big part of the algorithm will include lists of places you and your friends have frequented in each city.
According to TechCrunch, once a user is in the City Guides app and has selected a specific city, they’ll be able to see a list of profiles of friends who have visited that specified city. Presumably, this data is being collected from places people check in and likely from reviews they’ve posted. Which could mean that when you’re out and about with that annoying friend who tags you in every place you visit, that information could later play a role in informing data in the app.
It has been suggested the new guides could be a quasi-alternative to the gamified app, Foursquare, but no word on whether Facebook will grant users mayoral (or other) titles with frequent check-ins.
In addition to summarizing collective data from your friends, the new tool will also work on a greater level in its “Places the Locals Go” feature, which will aggregate the general sentiment from user reviews of area hot spots.
The tool will also feature an “Upcoming Events” section as well as a “Popular Attractions” section, as well as a bookmark feature that lets you save any entry for later. (You can even bookmark the city itself if you’d like to create a giant master list of all the places you’d still like to see.)
The tool is apparently also testing a “Book Now” feature at select hotels and restaurants, which could indicate its plans to go head to head with the established online travel agencies.
The app has only been released with limited availability according to a Facebook spokesperson, so as of press time plenty of questions remain. In particular, how does Facebook plan to prioritize its data? Will it use a TripAdvisor up-vote style to determine which are the top-listed attractions? Or will advertising revenue drive the top results, similar to the Yelp model?
In the preview images we saw, one of the top restaurant results in the Berlin City Guide was a ramen house. Call us crazy, and ramen may well be the coolest thing to hit Berlin since JFK accidentally called himself a jelly donut, but it seems like an app designed for visitors to Berlin might also want to focus on, you know, the German food.
As any good travel professional can tell you, finding a list of things to do in a city is easy. The challenge is curating that list to target it to a specific user’s needs.
The app is currently not available for all users and is reportedly only available on iOS and has not yet been released for Android.