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Google and the Future of Travel

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the who-needs-minority-report dept.

The Internet 93

An anonymous reader writes "It's been one year since Google's $700 million acquisition of ITA Software was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice after an antitrust review. So what does the search giant's strategy in online travel look like now? Google's Flight Search and Hotel Finder tools have met with mixed reviews in recent months, but a new bit of analysis argues that the future of travel is not about search, it's about data. More specifically, Google wants to make available everything from airfares and restaurant reviews to maps and transit schedules, throughout the entire travel process. And it wants to use travelers' online behavior to serve up better targeted ads and content across all of Google's sites and services."

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How it feels to be targeted all the time (2, Insightful)

TechNY (2625421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39791853)

I live in a part of world that has little limits on how you can advertise, sell your services and that has large structures for commissions regarding, well, pretty much anything. Want to take a ride somewhere? The driver will try to sell you anything. Instead of taking you where you want to go, or what is the best place for what you want to do, he will take you where he will get commissions from anything you spend. Be that restaurant or any other venue of entertainment. You can't ever be without thinking if you get good service, or if you are just used for making money. It starts to get into your head.

For me, Google is largely the same. That is how they make money. I much more happily pay for a piece of software or service when I know exactly what I get, and that I get it good price without foul play. Google and other marketers twist this. Nobody has time to completely research or get to know what they buy or what's available. Those marketers rely on that weakness, and in turn you are getting screwed. Do you really want to be thinking all the time if someone is screwing you over? It sucks.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (4, Insightful)

ygslash (893445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792105)

...Instead of taking you where you want to go, or what is the best place for what you want to do, he will take you where he will get commissions from anything you spend... For me, Google is largely the same. That is how they make money.

No, I don't think the people at Google are that stupid. They make their advertising money by being the biggest in search, and the only way they'll stay the biggest is by continuing to give the best results. It really doesn't make sense for them to squander their advantage for the few extra pennies they might get by skewing. And they know that very well.

Google's business model is built on the assumption that the days of traditional Big Media are numbered. The way people get information is changed forever. Now you make money by being better at gathering information and making it available, not by "owning" information and selling it.

But Big Media is not dead yet, and they are fighting back. They are using what's left of their hold on the public's attention to attack Google, and the concept of a free Internet in general, in every way they can. The amount of blatantly distorted anti-Google articles in traditional news media and on their web sites lately is astounding.

Don't get me wrong. The old slogan of "do no evil" is impossible to sustain for a for-profit company as big as Google has become. They'll do whatever they can to be the *only* ones who can present information as well as they do. They'll push the bounds of privacy, as long as it doesn't risk causing their basic business model to be clamped down.

But don't be fooled by Big Media into thinking that they'll be stupid and destroy their own business model.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (-1)

vought (160908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792137)

Do no evil was never the operative motto for the company.

See also: aggressively pushing prescription drug ad sales Google knew were illegal years ago. Hood winking the folks at Ames research center into becoming "Larry and Sergey and Eric's Private Airport". Etc.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792365)

...by being the biggest in search... please use english not cnn speak.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793135)

Google puts ads along side the search results and clearly separated from them. In other words they still give you impartial search results* and you can just ignore the ads if you choose.

* Except where they have been forced not to, e.g. DMCA take-down notices and the like.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793155)

Don't get me wrong. The old slogan of "do no evil" is impossible to sustain for a for-profit company as big as Google has become.

Please explain. Are you saying that it is inherently impossible for a large for-profit company to behave morally, or that it is just impossible to organize themselves in such a way that they don't?

I agree that there are few, if any large companies that are not evil, I just question your assertion that such a mythological establishment cannot exist.

It's pretty simple: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39794631)

Corporations are bound, by law, to maximize shareholder profits above all other concerns. That makes them, by definition, amoral. It isn't mythological, it is oxymoronic.

Re:It's pretty simple: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797035)

Interesting. I've never heard of such a law. Could you provide a citation? It would make for an interesting read, if it exists.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (3, Insightful)

vought (160908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792117)

This is why Google's efforts lately have been received relatively poorly. People know that Google sees them as marks. There is no free lunch, and Google's products lately show a distinct lack of polish and execution needed to make it a one-stop-shop for "categorizing the world's information". People know Google is looking over their shoulders constantly, and their products aren't getting better fast enough to keep ahead of the free/utility versus 'leave me alone' curve for some.

When you are getting something useful for free, that's great. But the value for Google doesn't extend to actually creating consumer-driven, best-in-class products. It's obvious to a growing umber of people that Google's products for consumers exist solely to create value for the company by gathering, manipulating, and selling their behavioral habits

See G+(is that an echo in here?) or Google TV, which last I heard, might have shipped a few hundred thlusand units. See anything they've done in the consumer space over the past few years - it sucks and no one is using it.

Android - a product Google has to pay other companies for because if all the IP conflicts and agreements - is successful but looks to have some pretty big and increasingly worrisome problems with forking. Google could lose control of it. And more Android users I talk to are pissed - I mean pissed - that Apple supports a three-year old phone with the latest iOs, but Google doesn't give a ahit enough to work with carriers to make that experience more valuable - to the customer.

Read the article about Stanford's coziness with Valley companies to get some ideas why this brain rot is pissing actual customers off. Hint: MBAs and lots of smart kids who are pretty cocky have a lot to do with it.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792257)

Trollollolllo...troooolllll...troll-t-troll-troll-troll...trooolllloooo.

Troll^^^

Oh, hi, troll. Didn't see ya there.

Trooollooolloooo...

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792655)

Android users I talk to are pissed - I mean pissed - that Apple supports a three-year old phone with the latest iOs, but Google doesn't give a ahit enough to work with carriers to make that experience more valuable - to the customer

It's nothing to do with the carriers, it's to do with the handset makers. It's also largely the fault of Google for some poor design in Android. With an iPhone, there is no artificial distinction between flash that can be used for the OS and flash that can be used for everything else. If iOS becomes 100MB bigger, it just means 100MB less for the user. If Android becomes 100MB bigger it means a load of phones stop being able to run it. My phone is about two years old, and the latest official release the manufacturer supports is 2.2 (from about when the phone was launched), although they unofficially support 2.3 (from about six months later). CyanogenMod supports a slightly newer 2.3 release.

It looks like I will be able to run a 4.x-based CyanogenMod, but that's totally unsupported by the manufacturer. They could fit 4.0 on it themselves, but they'd need to remove some of their own customisation (HTC Sense, which is quite nice, but not really essential), and they'd have to actually care about long-term support.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793709)

It's nothing to do with the carriers, it's to do with the handset makers. It's also largely the fault of Google for some poor design in Android. With an iPhone, there is no artificial distinction between flash that can be used for the OS and flash that can be used for everything else. If iOS becomes 100MB bigger, it just means 100MB less for the user. If Android becomes 100MB bigger it means a load of phones stop being able to run it. My phone is about two years old, and the latest official release the manufacturer supports is 2.2 (from about when the phone was launched), although they unofficially support 2.3 (from about six months later). CyanogenMod supports a slightly newer 2.3 release.

This was changed in 3.1 (and later). The reason the memory was broken up was to allow the user space to be mounted via USB. This means it "had" to be formatted FAT32 to make it compatible with the most computers. All of the devices that come with 3.1 or higher native use MTP to mount the user space and they are all one partition. It does mean that earlier devices are subject to this shortcoming.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39800149)

I think the problem with the carriers not offering updates to older phones is because the carriers don't want to since when you renew that contract to get the new shiny phone they can change the price.

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792303)

Trollollolllo...troooolllll...troll-t-troll-troll-troll...trooolllloooo.

Troll^^^

Oh, hi, troll. Didn't see ya there.

Trooollooolloooo...

Re:How it feels to be targeted all the time (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39800465)

Caveat Emptor
I'm not sure what your point is, or how things are different today than they are 2000 years ago.
Not everyone is trying to screw you over. But pretty much everyone is trying to make a buck. Sometimes that means what is best for both of you, sometimes it doesn't.

big is bad (5, Informative)

ozduo (2043408) | more than 2 years ago | (#39791923)

I stopped using Lonely planet for travel advice because everything they suggested was congested with other Lonely planet users.

Re:big is bad (1)

MastaBaba (530286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39791975)

I stopped using LP for advice on where to eat or stay *when options are plenty*. The books are still an excellent source on general information and, if you have limited time, on understanding what to do (and what not to do) in an out-of-the-way location. But, indeed, I typically, too, avoid specific venues recommended by LP.

Re:big is bad (3, Insightful)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792095)

I stopped using Lonely planet for travel advice because everything they suggested was congested with other Lonely planet users.

I think your problem isn't LP. The problem is that you keep going the same places that everybody else goes. There is no "Lonely Planet Effect" is Madagascar.

Re:big is bad (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792517)

Well many people like to go to great places, so unless you don't go to what are considered the "best places to visit" you will run into this problem.

Another problem is that in many places if you want to eat something you will go to the one restaurant that provides English menu (because the rest is unreadable - incomprehensible scripts) and that's where all the foreigners end up going to. Unless you're very adventurous and don't care what you get on your plate.

That said, if in an unknown area, if I have to choose between two restaurants I'd generally prefer the busier one. Reasoning: the locals know what's best, and the better restaurant will attract more people.

Oh and I've never used Lonely Planet as travel guide, other than reading a bit about a target area at home before leaving to see what's interesting. Plenty of other options to go around.

Re:big is bad (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796221)

That reminds me of the Japanese food vending machines in the train station. Cant read katakana to save my life but they put down the yen amount. Ended up with sake instead of food (and didn't eat all day). Though luckily enough the japanese usually have pictures of food so you can get idea and do a little dance for that waiter/waitress.

Re:big is bad (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793067)

The problem is that you keep going the same places that everybody else goes. There is no "Lonely Planet Effect" is Madagascar.

Lonely Planet has published for six editions now a guide [amazon.com] for Madagascar, and even if that island nation draws fewer tourists than some other countries, I've no doubt that that the specific lodgings recommended in the guide are now patronized by a steady stream of LP-toting backpackers -- and the proprietors have jacked up the prices once they've noticed that they've a guaranteed source of customers.

Re:big is bad (2)

itsthebin (725864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793325)

There is no "Lonely Planet Effect" is Madagascar.

I have see a lot of backpackers in the last year here in Tamatave - Google maps/earth lists many of the hotels and restaurants

Re:big is bad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792313)

Agree with you.

Yogesh Gamer [yogeshgamer.com]

Re:big is bad (1)

lessthanpi (1333061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792563)

Too true. I found I can just ask travelers about a place and they will quote LP word for word.

Re:big is bad (1)

oldelpaso (851825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792611)

When I went backpacking around Europe 10 years ago, the cliche was that nearly every American backpacker had a copy of Let's Go. In some cities it was noticeable that hostels were far more likely to be fully booked if they appeared high in the list in Let's Go Europe. It'd be interesting to see how this has changed for today's backpackers, among whom smartphones and netbooks seem ubiquitous, and where bookings are primarily web-driven.

Re:big is bad (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796969)

When I went backpacking around Europe 10 years ago, the cliche was that nearly every American backpacker had a copy of Let's Go. In some cities it was noticeable that hostels were far more likely to be fully booked if they appeared high in the list in Let's Go Europe. It'd be interesting to see how this has changed for today's backpackers, among whom smartphones and netbooks seem ubiquitous, and where bookings are primarily web-driven.

Yeah, nothing would scream clueless american tourist quite like a let's go guide of Europe... Even the japanese tourists mostly have guidebooks of individual countries or regions of europe.

To a European, having a single guide book on the entirety of europe seems pretty absurd. And no, it is not the same as having a single guidebook of all of the USA, simply because of the practical differences between culturally and linguistically distinct countrires and the cultural variety and density of sights in countries that have a few millennia of history.

I never got the chance to skim the general parts of a let's go europe, but i'd be curious what they say about things like price ranges for services, opening hours, attitudes towards tourists, being able to pay by credit card, advice for women travelers or for traveling with children, law enforcement, food, nightlife, etc that are typically featured in a dedicated section of a good backpackers' guide but all vary widely from one country to another.

Yogi says... (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792821)

I stopped using Lonely planet for travel advice because everything they suggested was congested with other Lonely planet users.

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Information, ads, more information, more add . . . (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39791941)

How to I determine if any of all this gargantuan amount of information is any good? Are they real reviews, from real people . . . ? Or thinly veiled spam . . . ?

I don't need any more information. I just want to get from point A to point B at a reasonable price with the minimal amount of hassle.

My parents used to have a thing called a "travel agent" who would do that for them. She knew may parents likes and dislikes, so one short call was enough to book a trip.

Maybe someone could patent that idea, and then implement it in software?

Please note the development order. Patent first, implement later.

Re:Information, ads, more information, more add . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792011)

I think that's what they are trying to do. Relevance algorithms don't just determine what you may like. They look at what people with similar likes like. Statistically, if someone has a history of looking for the same coffee, wines and recipes as you, and they also go to a certain restaurant a couple times a month, you might like that restaurant too. The relevance algorithm tells them what to suggest for you. The quality of those relevance algorithms are what gets people to want to advertise through Google.

If it was just who spent the most money on advertising, every single restaurant ad would be for McDonald's.

wtb: cheapest flight anytime (4, Insightful)

krups gusto (2203848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792025)

this is an area where there's a market that I was really hoping google would bust into. All I want when booking a vacation is: - What's the cheapest flight to X. I don't care when or what carrier. This functionality used to exist. Then it disappeared. I never understood why. This was a killer feature on a variety of vacation sites. If they want to blow my mind, I'd cream my pants at: - Ability to search for cheapest flight anytime including taxes/fees and assuming one carry on bag. I'd even be willing to accept a 30s must watch video add with flashing lights if the above were offered.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792111)

I'd even be willing to accept a 30s must watch video add with flashing lights if the above were offered.

Oh, if only internet money could drive the airlines back into a bidding war against one another

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792147)

All I want when booking a vacation is: - What's the cheapest flight to X. I don't care when or what carrier.

And you are the reason that air travel is now an appalling experience.

You are the reason that seat pitch is now 28 inches.

You are the reason that 85% of cabin air is recirculated instead of fresh.

You are the reason for baggage fees, grumpy cabin staff and babies crying onboard.

If cost is your only criteria, please walk.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

WillHirsch (2511496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792217)

There are plenty of airlines still around who happily charge you more and are suitably more comfortable to fly with. I suspect the truth is that faced with the cheaper airlines on offer, even you are prepared to put up with the sound of your own voice complaining about it than pay what it actually costs for good service. Also, what airline has ever turned away babies?

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792749)

If you airline cost more, than only quiet, high born babies would fly.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (2)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792309)

I'm all in favor of adequate prices for higher service.

But again - if you're crammed into those 28 inches on every flight and food tastes like cardboard no matter what airline I'm choosing - price again becomes the criteria.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792399)

It's obvious that people don't make the effort to find out which airlines are good and which are crap. There can be huge differences in quality between airlines even when the prices are roughly the same. Have you ever used Skytrax?

Good article (1)

ddda (2549704) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792409)

Good article

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792515)

And you are the reason that air travel is now an appalling experience.

You are the reason that seat pitch is now 28 inches.

You are the reason that 85% of cabin air is recirculated instead of fresh.

You are the reason for baggage fees, grumpy cabin staff and babies crying onboard.

If cost is your only criteria, please walk.

There are flights with a larger seat pitch, fresh air, no baggage fees, pleasant cabin staff and without crying babies. You get those if you pay for them, hypocrite.
He isn't the reason to why you don't get the service that you think you deserve, you are.
Stop paying for something that you don't want.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795095)

Then book first class seats and most of your points become moot.

Except for the fresh air thing, but I don't really know what you're on about. I've been flying for decades and to me the air inside the plane has always been stale. On the other hand, long gone are the days where smoking was allowed on board.
I guess that's the real reason why they needed to pump extra fresh air into the cabin. If you ask me, I'd rather take the 85% recirculated air than pure air + smoke from the human chimneys in the back.

As for the grumpy staff and babies crying, that's nothing new. It was like that 20 years ago and still is. But again, first class gets you nicer service and it's rare that a mother will pay first class tickets for her little monster. They usually fly in the back making lives misearble for the rest of us.

As far as I see it, for flights lasting up to around 4h, the airplane is just a glorified bus. I don't need anything else, just take me to where it says on the ticket, and in the mean time I can sleep/play/read/work to distract myself until we arrive.
Granted, flying may not be a great experience, but cheaper flights mean I get to travel more and visit more of the world.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

vought (160908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792161)

SAABRE and the other booking systems are a bit too smart these days to actually make tickets available at some sort of pre-determined price.

Jet fuel costs four times what it did ten years ago. Fleets are getting replaced. You really think they're going to let the system release any $300 seats unless the load factor for that flight is low and converging with the flight day?

Still, it only costs about 30% more in actual dollars than it did in 1999 to fly cross country. That little fact doesn't exactly make me confident that the broken remains of what was once a diverse domestic air travel market are very concerned with the self-loading freight, if you get my drift.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794813)

Still, it only costs about 30% more in actual dollars than it did in 1999 to fly cross country

As it should. Personnel cost has gone down, computing and information management has gotten more efficient. Overall seats booked per flight has gone up. Jet-A is only one small part of the equation. Inflation across all goods and services has only been 28-30% in that time frame.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792163)

i used to work for an online travel agency and searching on price including taxes and fees was an often requested feature. it's difficult to do because bag fees are not published by the carriers (at least not via the same way as fares and other fees) and are charged on the day of travel.

within the continental united states, price is becoming less of a distinguishing factor - with fewer carriers and a depressed economy came less price variability. carriers tend to match each other's prices.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792343)

Umm... Kayak?
In the UK we already have price comparison sites that will show you just what you're looking for. Unfortunately, there's just a policy in the US of nickel and diming. We have that in the UK (Easyjet, Ryanair etc. charge for checking in), but the regulators make sure they put that on the price... unless its optional.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792375)

I think I found your preferred carrier - "Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us."

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (2)

flonker (526111) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792443)

Chicago, IL -> Orlando, FL 2 weeks from today:
Greyhound.com: $134
Kayak.com: $122

I'm sure the numbers aren't what would appear on your final receipt, but the point is, The airlines are cost competitive with Greyhound, even ignoring the additional trip time and INS "papers please" inspections in Orlando that I keep hearing about from multiple people.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793187)

Plus you get a free back-of-the-hand-job from a TSA official!

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793483)

How do you plan to take a Kayak from Chicago? Over the Niagara Falls, out the St Lawrence Seaway? That would surely cost more than $122.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

sanyacid (768747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792463)

You didn't state where you live, but if you are in Europe, or travelling inside of Europe, then the best tool I've found is Azuon. It includes all the features you mentioned and more. Azuon is not free. If you want a quick and free solution then ebookers website offers in my opinion best free service, though, not nearly as good as Azuon.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792615)

I checked that (I like astroturf!).
Just top of my head, it misses Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM. Oh, and also the swiss airline company. Oh oh, and Luxair.

So, basically it includes the budget fliers, but not the "national" companies?
Thanks but no thanks.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792675)

"I checked that (I like astroturf!).
Just top of my head, it misses Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM. Oh, and also the swiss airline company. Oh oh, and Luxair."

Those are the struggling ones, they were and are never the cheapest.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793689)

They are the ones that provide actual service. Do not make the mistake the Americans have made by considering price as the only factor in buying airline tickets.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

Hodr (219920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794033)

You should fly more often in the US. Seems like many of the discount airlines provide much better service now than the big guys (southwest being the notable exception).

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794805)

I fly a fair bit, at least a few times a year. Enough to not ever fly United again if I can avoid it. I have heard good things about southwest, and I like jetblue, but they are not alway the cheapest.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

sanyacid (768747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793981)

I guess they are left out on purpose. Those who are seeking cheap flights don't really need info about expensive flights. If you don't care about price, then just book directly from your favourite booking agency. On a sidenote, the service is most of the time identical across all the airlines, with a few exceptions, like not getting a meal during a flight (Ryanair!).

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792525)

In my area these sites still exist.

Great for finding cheap rates, and then move to the ailiner's own web site for generally even cheaper fares.

Airlines don't pay commission to agents anymore on tickets, so the price you see at those agents is including an agent's mark-up. Of course my behaviour is killing off those agents... but that's what airliners want anyway.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792603)

This. A thousand times this.
I'm trying to book a flight. If you google/edreams/expidia this, you're in the $300 dollar range.
Or you go to ryanair.com, get a godawful website dating back to geocities, but end up flying for about $100.
Or you go to another budgeteer.

It gets even worse when you're willing to depart from multiple airports. There are 4-6 airports "nearby": one in the home town, 2 cheap ones (ryanair-alike stuff) with a good shuttle service, and then various other regional ones nearby (since I live near 3 other countries).
If I want to get somewhere, I don't mind any of the first 3, and I'll gladly consider any of the nearby other 2-3. Just let me know 1) what it costs and 2) what time it leaves. This is enough for me to see how viable it is, and if it (the savings/costs) is worth it (the necessary / saved time to travel to the airport).

I can just imagine the app now: "Get me out of here!": find cheap flights from where you're standing to "...". Would be awesome.

Have you even tried it? (2)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792813)

What you are describing is one of the main features of Google flight search (the quick-scroll lowest fare bar chart).

You posting this makes me think you have not even looked at it at all.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793213)

Lonely planet and a huge raft of other middleman websites are going to be pushed out in the process though. Hotel portals, tourism portals, review sites, gone.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

cornjones (33009) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793509)

I always wondered why someone wasn't clearing unsold seats at the last second. as the flight time approaches, the value of a ticket on a still-empty seat starts to approach 0. Why doesn't somebody allow me to say, i want to fly somewhere tomorrow, where is the cheapest place to go. Or send me an alert when a ticket to NYC drops to under 30$. Even if it means I have 2 hours to catch the flight.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (2)

Caratted (806506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796713)

I hear this argument a lot on these types of threads. I'm curious as to why you think the value of the still-empty seat is 0. There is still the opportunity cost of letting you have a seat now, as opposed to being pretty confident (with their big-budget analysts, the margin of error is probably quite low) that you will book a different over-priced seat ahead of time like everybody else. I realize the fuel is still being used, but that is not how a bottom-line works.

Basically, I'm under the impression that the empty seat is still worth a significant amount on the chance (which is, statistically, very high) that you will pay more than double a marginal rate on the next, or the next, or the next available flight. Only when flights start to have routinely empty seats, does the value of those seats go to 0. And then the analysts will pull data to adjust flights accordingly. This is not a lose-lose situation for the airliners, just the consumer.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39801003)

Because the airlines don't do that. I was flying internationally and thanks to the TSA (and Delta's stupid baggage fees) missed my flight. I was meeting someone and had to get to Europe. I found a later flight to my connecting city and would let me catch my overseas flight. I went to the gate, bought a ticket, and was one of the last people to board the plane. Cost? Full price, in fact probably more than what most people on the plane paid. If I didn't buy the ticket, the seat would have been empty, as you couldn't get it much more last minute than that.

Kayak? (1)

aclarke (307017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793737)

Maybe I'm not understanding your issue, but Kayak does something like this. You can do a search from multiple airports, to multiple airports. You can include surrounding airports. You can have it email you daily search results for the cheapest flight per month for the next few months. That way, say you want to fly to Amsterdam or Paris or Geneva, and you don't care when you fly between today and October, and you're willing to stay for anywhere from 7-14 nights, you can get daily notifications of fare changes for all that and book when you see a price you like.

ITA Matrix (1)

acid06 (917409) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797795)

Use this tool and have fun: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ [itasoftware.com]
You can't actually buy the tickets, but once you've found what you want, you can just go to any other travel site, airline site or real-world travel agent and issue the tickets.

Re:wtb: cheapest flight anytime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39802539)

flights.tripadvisor.com does exactly what you want.

Advertizers aren't understanding (3, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792091)

The more I get targeted and harassed the less likely I am to buy. I'm sick to death of being force fed advertisements that are "targeted" to me. I thoroughly understand the need for ads but the more oppressive the ads the more unlikely I am to buy so it's counterproductive. The fantasy of "forcing" people to buy is a fantasy so they need to back off the ads that attack customers and try to politely "inform" customers. Beating a customer senseless isn't going to make them more likely to buy their product!!!! I often feel like I'm in the movie "A Clockwork Orange"where they demand I watch their ads so I end up with a negative impression of their product.

Re:Advertizers aren't understanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792131)

Ads are leaving a sour taste in my mouth. On the Internet, since a good amount of malware is served up by them, I associate ad servers with infections, compromise, and criminal activity. (Ironic that AdBlock does more for system protection these days than any AV program.)

Then there is the fact that every time an ad is thrown in your face, it tries to whisper back every single detail, and mark your computer with as many unique IDs for later grabbing, similar to a tomcat marking its territory. You click on a link, and you are redirected through a labyrinth of sites wanting to know who you are before you see a single bit of relevant data.

If ad-slingers stopped allowing their clients to serve up malicious code and stopped trying to invade constantly, maybe I'd give them more credit, but for anyone in IT who values security, they are the enemy.

This goes with TV and other media. There are billions being spent to divide Americans by race, generation, preference, education, even types of music listened to. Why? Simple divide and conquer techniques to get knee-jerk votes for this election.

Doesn't apply (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792335)

Although your comments apply to me and probably a lot of slashdotters, the vast majority of sheeple on this planet buy stuff and services if they are targeted with ads for those at the right time. This is a numbers game, played on individuals, not an individuals game played in numbers.

Re:Advertizers aren't understanding (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793207)

Who are "they"? Google's text ads don't seem anything like what you describe.

Re:Advertizers aren't understanding (1)

Anonymousslashdot (2601035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793941)

The fantasy of "forcing" people to buy is a fantasy

Yes and it's a multi-billion dollar fantasy.

Beating a customer senseless isn't going to make them more likely to buy their product!!!!

I guess you'll never gonna get a job in the marketing department.

Re:Advertizers aren't understanding (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39801025)

The more I get targeted and harassed the less likely I am to buy.

If you are a guy, what would you rather see? An add for tampons, or an add for WOW or beer or other manly product?
A targeted ad should be less harassing, less oppressive, and more likely that you will pay attention to the ad.

Arochnie peremychki (1)

domstroi (2505744) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792149)

Yea... You rules brick. Arochnie peremychki [velgbk.com.ua] dlya vseh.

Mobile data when travelling (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792153)

This kind of data would be so much more useful if I actually had access to it when I'm overseas, but mobile data charges make that far too expensive to contemplate. I tried Boingo and Fon but coverage for both is terrible.

Re:Mobile data when travelling (4, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792471)

Right now the best bet is just to pick up a sim with data in each country. I am hoping sooner or later will see international sim cards with decent rates. It's frustrating when I get in my car, drive for 2 hours and lose my data because I just crossed the border.

I've seen some o.k. smart phones that are dual sim. I'd really like to see that feature in a higher end model. Then you can always keep in your 'home' sim and switch out as needed when you are traveling on the other slot. Google Voice needs to go international too - that would really solve the dual sim stupidity immediately.

Which, following this rabbit trail, leads to my biggest reservation about google knowing where I am. Way too many things they release are only available to users in certain countries (often just the US) and I depend on them not knowing where I am to use some of their stuff I really like. Our legal systems lag so far behind our technology and it's frustrating at times.

Re:Mobile data when travelling (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793347)

Problem is to get a Japanese SIM you need to either be a citizen or have a long term residency card to show. I guess the phone companies got fed up with people getting stuff on contract and then leaving the country, but even for pay-as-you-go SIM-only deals it is a requirement.

I do in fact rent a SIM for voice when I am there from Mobal, but data is not cheap with them either.

Re:Mobile data when travelling (1)

nyamada (113690) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793859)

Actually, I just returned from Japan and got a 1 gb sim card from econnectjapan.com for data use without needing to be a citizen or having a long-term residency card. Did it on line and it was quick and easy.

Re:Mobile data when travelling (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798395)

Thanks, I had not seen that. Still rather expensive but much better than anything else I have seen.

Re:Mobile data when travelling (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797275)

It's frustrating when I get in my car, drive for 2 hours and lose my data because I just crossed the border.

At the current rates you for international data roaming, this should be seen as a plus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOSZF-dnjWo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792191)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOSZF-dnjWo

What is ITA Software? (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792247)

So, ITA Software makes an "airfare search and pricing" according to Wikipedia. Is there a big deal around this? Is that a problem that requires a sophisticated algorithm? I mean, how can you run a big company around this? If there is something technically interesting to it, it would be nice to know. (Also, it would be a motivation for bringing this story up on Slashdot at all.)

Re:What is ITA Software? (4, Informative)

Mr.Ned (79679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792545)

Airfare search is hard. Really hard. The guy most responsible for ITA's (now Google's) flight search engine wrote up a presentation:

http://www.demarcken.org/carl/papers/ITA-software-travel-complexity/img0.html [demarcken.org]

See in particular "Some complexity results": http://www.demarcken.org/carl/papers/ITA-software-travel-complexity/img24.html [demarcken.org]

Re:What is ITA Software? (2)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792845)

Airline search is actually a very complicated problem. You have a variety of complex things working in tandem

- The fact that between any two hubs you have a very large number of possible routes when you include non-direct flights. This by itself is already a non-trivial shortest-path problem.

- The fact that flight prices change multiple times daily and thus your engine and its indicies have to be fully dynamic, thus making them harder to optimize for real time queries.

- The fact that you must weigh flights on the same carrier higher than flights that are cross-carrier in your algorithms, and for cross-carrier flights allow for a longer lagtime between flights.

- The fact that certain airports need you to allow for longer lagtimes than others due to gate travel time than others, and maintain this database based on statistics

- The sheer volume of data and queries

Re:What is ITA Software? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792957)

There's also the issue that if you use some trivial metrics to sort your search results, you will probably obtain a dozen flight schedules that are only trivially different. It's difficult to translate any human definition of "search result usefulness" into numbers.

- The fact that flight prices change multiple times daily and thus your engine and its indicies have to be fully dynamic, thus making them harder to optimize for real time queries.

I believe they do this by staging upgrades of code and data in a cluster of nodes. You rebuild the data file (a serialized graph data structure ready to be mmap()ped), upload it onto nodes that are down and bring them up; once you have enough of them, you redirect the queries and upgrade the rest.

Re:What is ITA Software? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39794933)

If only there were a way to automate that. Use some kind of storehouse for the information, and be able to do a valuable sorting on lots of data. I realize that would be thousands, maybe even millions, of computations for just one route. Someone should invent something that can do that kind of math automatically instead of having to do it all by hand.

Once they figure this one out, they should really tackle routing automotive traffic between points, accounting for the multiple possible paths, varying speed limits, and typical traffic patterns. Once google figures out this airline thing with less than 100,000 worldwide flights a day, I'll bet in just a couple of years they can figure out an automotive traffic routing algorithm that covers the hundreds of millions of possibilities for automotive travel in the US!

Re:What is ITA Software? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792905)

I actually worked on an air fare search engine similar to ITA's and let me tell you - the industry is based on a 50-year old paradigm and 40-year old companies with their 30-year old traditions and procedures. Everything is meant to be easily filed on paper or dumb forms manually by people who are qualified to do just that. It is NOT meant to be easy to use or search through. There are no flights, really. It's rules upon rules upon rules upon rules. To get data on a single flight you need to query like 3 different international authorities. And even then a single flight that the user sees as a single price point looks like "If flying with company A from zone C to zone X on Wednesday or Thursday and you have a sopover in city Z for no less than 4 hours and your return flight is within 7 days, but not on a Saturday, then your price is $270 (without airport and fuel fees, which are calculated separately in a similar way), UNLESS you're accompanied by one or two minors in which case..." (I'm not making this up - in fact I'm simplifying it by an order of magnitude). And you have gigabytes upon gigabytes of text-based rules like that. And that's for a single airline. Heaven forbid if you try to combine a low cost fare with a regular one. Combining all possibilities and searching through that junk seemed to be at least NP :)
So I sincerely hope that Google can kick some major butt and reorganize the airfare industry as a whole (not just searching), because it's ridiculous that airlines need to buy 3rd party software to figure out what their own damn fares cost after all the math and taxes.

Re:What is ITA Software? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793317)

I'll tell you what the big deal is. Finding routes and sorting them by price, time, or any other criterion is essentially a multiple traveling salesman problem. It can not be solved in polynomial time. You have to jump through several techniques akin to making the computer play chess or play Jeopardy to solve this problem. ITA had a break through using some kind of push/pull cache based thing that makes it efficient or even possible to do it.

The CTO of ITA software topped entire India in his high school final examination. He went to the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and topped his class there too. Then worked on the Artificial Intelligence lab of MIT. That guy is amazing. He can read four or five books on diverse subjects ranging from history of America to ecology of rain forests to hedge fund trading strategies... His penmanship is so amazing in college we used to ask him to write the campus magazine by his hand instead of going through typing it up or typesetting it and printing it. His skits would win intra hostel competitions. He was the editor of the city newspaper's Youth page back then. And he did audience research for the local TV station in his spare time.

Yes, it takes a person of that level of intellect to attack the problem of airfare. We mortals have no chance against them.

Welcome to Google's Panopticon (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39792267)

Page & Brin: We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.

Who found this surprising? (1, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39792659)

"And it wants to use travelers' online behavior to serve up better targeted ads and content across all of Google's sites and services."

Seriously? Who thought this wasn't Google's goal?

And that's why I'm getting increasingly frustrated with Google's services - they're increasingly designed to serve their customers, and the user be dammed.

And it wants to use travelers' online behavior to (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793047)

And it wants to use travelers' online behavior to serve up better targeted ads and content across all of Google's sites and services

It can want whatever it wants, but I'll be leaving happily in oblivion not knowing how hard Google tries to target me with their ads. They might know where I am, what I am doing right now, even what I am thinking, but as long as a nice pair of superheroes: ADP and NS exist, their spam arrows won't reach me.

I keep saying this. At the time of Megaupload crackdown (streaming became significantly worse experience nowadays) they are letting ADP and NS guys scot-free? I am glad adhosting mafia is not as strong as MAFIAA. Otherwise they would outlawed ADP long time ago.

Whenever I have to switch to another browser (the one without those beautiful add-ons installed) because of necessity I feel like steak chewing Cipher brutally taken from his nice restaurant to find myself on the rigid metal mesh floor violently vomiting undigested mixture amino acids and vitamins.

Thank you, Agent ADP and Agent NS!

Google is more evil than Microsoft ever was (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39793561)

Google is more evil than Microsoft ever was [kimmoa.se] . You know it's true.

Google Flight Search is US-only (1)

aclarke (307017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39793757)

You can only use Google Flight Search for flights originating in the United States. Therefore, it's a non-starter for me in Canada when compared to, say, Kayak.

Google to the Center of the Earth (1)

Walt Sellers (1741378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799515)

Google's real travel project: an ultra-deep, very large tunnels, starting with San Francisco to Dulles, VA.

Once complete they will have
- Self-driving, high-speed long-range passenger "delivery", as long as synthetic light for 8 or 10 hours is tolerable (great wifi though)
- Same for freight delivery.
- Just as a bonus, easy to build long-haul network connections.

How about some AI to help travel ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39804725)

Here is an example of a prototype where artificial intelligence is used to help travel scheduling :

http://travelbudget.inevo.pt/

If Google could provide a booking price/availability API, this prototype could be a reality.

the future of travel (1)

allo (1728082) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809831)

beaming!

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