In the time many now call the first dot-com boom, me and my brother where traveling in Central Asia. Seeing how everybody was carrying a Lonely Planet, we were speculating that the travel-guide-as-a-book must have had its longest time. The web filled with stories from actual travelers surely would take over soon. So we came home and started world66.com, a wiki type travel guide. Our plan was to do this on the web for a while, but quickly move on to mobile devices, since there was a lot of talk how this was going to be the new thing. Fast 3G connections would replace dial up internet and WAP was going to bigger than HTML ever was. We even built a bunch of PalmOs travel guides and offered them for sale.
World66 did ok, but the mobile bit never happened. We sold the company to Internet Brands. My brother went off to run Oberon and I traveled the world with Google. But this itch that better travel guides were needed remained.
Enters the iPhone
Things started to change of course once Apple came out with their phone. Then Android came. Then the iPad. And now the tablet clones are coming. These devices aren't built per se for the next generation travel guides, but they'll do quite nicely indeed. So about a year ago, we started to experiment. We started by taking 7 different datasets available under free licenses like the Creative Commons and mixing them up. Wikitravel and World66 have nice general coverage of the world when it comes to travel, but they generally don't know where things are exactly. Open Street Maps has that information, but lacks the depth that Wikipedia can provide. TouristEye has a fresh look on new places. Dmoz and ChefMoz have been around for a while but still have a large set of businesses and restaurants.
Throw in some crafty Python scripts and let it stew for a while and a travel guide for the world rolls out. From this, with a bit of hand work we cut city guides for major destinations and launched them for both Android and iOs. Because of the Open Licenses we can keep all the data on the device so they work even where there is no Internet connection. Check them out and see where we are.
But that's not it
The picture below on the left is a travel guide from 1870 for Switzerland. The picture on the right is a Lonely Planet guide for the iPhone. Nothing much has changed. Murray's Handbook advises you that servants can be brought for free on a train and the Lonely Planet might have something on where free Wifi is to be had, but essentially it is still listings of things to see interspersed with general observations.
In the next months, we'll be rolling out a travel guide for mobile devices that actually takes advantage of being on a device and isn't just a straight forward port of a book. We have some great ideas that we think will make life on the road a little better. Some no doubt are things you have wondered about yourself:
- If my phone knows it'll be sunny today, but rainy tomorrow, why can't it tell me to go to the park now, and leave the museum for the next day? When I look at the museum page on Monday, why can't it list the museums that are closed on Monday last?
- If I tell my guide what I like in Barcelona, shouldn't it be able to tell me what I would probably like in Prague?
- I like a coffee around 11AM. My guide should be able to learn that and when I take it out of my pocket around that time show me a little message saying "there's a great coffee place just 200 meters from here".
You get the idea.
We're a team of four. Me, the already mentioned brother (Richard), another brother of mine (Vincent) and Jon Tirsen, another Ex-Googler. You can check out our website, though since we're a mobile first company, you'll probably learn more from our apps. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share ideas, express enthusiasm or collaborate. I'll be traveling quite a bit in the near future, so I might be in a town near you soon.