Hopper: The Startup in Pursuit of Organizing Travel Data for Consumer Discovery

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Between investigating the best restaurants, safe travel routes and must-see destinations, planning a trip can be downright time-consuming, and above all else, frustrating for the user. Even worse? Often times, users must hop from site to site in search of the travel information they need. Hopper—the startup trying to impose structure on the scattered landscape of consumer-travel data—aims to streamline the travel discovery process in one place. (In INFO 202 speak, essentially a library comprised of travel-related content from around the web.)

Here, a breakdown of the five dimensions of Hopper’s consumer-travel design space:

What is being organized?

The unaggregrated, unstructured travel-related information sprinkled across the web. “Hopper’s data comes from […] blog posts,” according to Fredrick Lalonde, CEO of the 5-year-old startup that’s slated to launch in the second half of 2012. “There are two million blog posts related to travel per day, with the word ‘travel’ being the most used tag.” While the intention lies in cataloguing the user-generated travel data through relevant tags, the information system also plans on adding proprietary content into its collection of resources. (“It’s All About Big Data.” CloudTimes.org. Amiro Group, Inc, n.d. Web. 26 August. 2012.)

Why is it being organized? 

We’ve all been there—hopping from TripAdvisor to Yelp to Frommer’s for five-star food, bar and excursion recommendations, to name a few. Lalonde has had a similar experience: “The experience is broken, everything’s fragmented, and you’re jumping around from one website to another, ” he says, in a recent article featured on Silicon Angle. In addition, he claims, the sophisticated application is not a travel search engine. Rather, LaLonda likens Hopper to a repository with added services, similar to Apple’s Genuis engine, which serves two functions: 1). browse for the sake of browsing; and 2). provide purchasing options based on users’ interests. (“The Data Behind Travel Proves a Worthy Investment.” SiliconAngle.com. Web. 16 August. 2012.) Thus, it’s able to create lists in an open-ended travel discovery mode but also through natural-language queries.

How much of it is being organized?

Is Hopper currently cataloguing those two million blog posts per day? Not sure. But, Lalonde claims Hopper has half a billion webpages in its collections—and it’s expected to grow. (“The Data Behind Travel Proves a Worthy Investment.” SiliconAngle.com. Web. 16 August. 2012.)

When is it being organized? 

Hopper is still in beta, so there’s little knowledge of when it’s being organized yet, except maybe to a select few. One would imagine it’s a mash-up of both pre- and post-organization. Hopper comes in during the post organization phrase, cataloguing information based on ‘travel tags’ of user-generated content on the Internet. However, given that the startup anticipates proprietary content deals, it’s likely curators or editors of the site will impose headlines, subheadings, tags, etc., onto the proprietary content prior to indexing within the tool. (Stay tuned…)

Who (or what) is organizing it?

Sophisticated algorithms. Hopper utilizes machine learning, NoSQL, and big data processing tools. According to Lalonde in an August 2008 Xconomy article, here’s how Hopper works: "Say you type in 'scuba diving Caribbean.' The site will access a "giant statistical grid of user information" that takes into account all mentions of relevant scuba spots—from articles, blogs, forums, reviews, social media, and so forth—and returns a list that’s ranked according to those mentions, but also things like distance, flight costs, and time of year." ("Hopper, With $8M in New VC Bucks, Looks to LeapFrog Online Travel Search Via Big Data." Xcomony. Web. 22 August. 2011.)

Hopper’s mission is very apparent: Revolutionize the messy travel discovery space into a one tidy, unified user experience. As Hopper imposes structure onto the current, unorganized discovery process, it’s also directly creating a new, organized library-esque model the travel industry has yet to see—ever.