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Web 3.0 & Travel Search Engines

Posted on Friday, Jun 1st 2007

We have been discussing the online travel industry and have covered Yahoo! Travel, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline and LonelyPlanet from a Web 3.0 perspective earlier. Here we will take a look at the popular travel meta-search engines, Kayak and SideStep in the light of the web 3.0 framework.

Kayak was founded in January 2004 by former executives of Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. Both BusinessWeek and have included Kayak among the “Best of the Web”. Entrepreneur magazine had selected the site as the “Best Site for Airfare Shopping”. Currently Kayak receives more than 6 million unique visitors per month.

SideStep, founded in 1999 is headquartered in Santa Clara, California. SideStep has won numerous awards and acknowledgements including the “Best of the Web” award from and BusinessWeek. In 2006, PC World included SideStep among the Best 100 Products of the Year. The site receives more than 5 million unique visitors per month.

The Context for Meta Search Engines is almost always to find the best possible flight or hotel.
Hence, it is the Search function that is most key.

Vertical Search
Both Kayak and Sidestep provide various nuances of vertical search that are fantastic. Both do the bread-and-butter flight, hotel, car rental searches that one would expect on a travel search engine, and do them well. You can narrow down searches by Price, Date Ranges, No. of Stops, Class of Travel (for airlines), distance from landmarks for hotels, and a host of other search criteria. And they not only search Expedia, Orbitz, and other online portals, they also search the hotel and airlines sites like,, etc.

There are a few minor issues, however, which both engines need to fix. British Airways and United, for example, have a class of service called “Economy Premier”, which is between Economy and Business. Try searching for Economy Premier tickets on Kayak. Doesn’t work.

Kayak Paris

Personalized Alerts on Best Fares across travel portals and airlines to various destinations is also very useful. Below is one that I have set up for Africa.

Africa Kayak

Kayak doesn’t have any Content, but SideStep has a Travel Guide feature, which is powered by Travelocity, Frommer’s, and other Content Partners. Seems like an easy function to replicate via some partnerships, and Kayak should emulate.

Community doesn’t really apply here, since we’re reviewing a vertical search engine, although being able to do a search on the community generated reviews of a particular hotel across various portals could be very helpful also. Besides that, the community function is pretty much unnecessary here.

Commerce is also not part of a Meta Search engine’s business model.

Business Model
In fact, Meta-search engines earn money mainly through advertising and referral fees. Kayak also enables travel search for AOL, CNN, and Some of SideStep’s advertising partners are, Priceline, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, and Orbitz.

Travel is a very significant category online,
and in these days of active M&A, it is very likely that these two vertical search engines will soon be acquired by one of the bigger internet conglomerates, or a larger Travel portal.

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I’ve read your very interesting reviews of online travel companies in the context of web 3.0
It’s the largest online ecommerce vertical with close to $ 80 billion in travel purchased online.
There’s an error in the intro about Kayak. The company wasn’t founded by Orbitz/Travelocity/Expedia but by former employees of these companies. CEO Steve Hafner ex Orbitz, CTO Paul English ex Expedia and Chairman Terry Jones ex Travelocity.

Joe Buhler Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 1:26 PM PT

Thanks, Joe. Sorry about the error. It is corrected.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 4:34 PM PT


I would also suggest a travel search engine called Trabber. Trabber aggregates content directly from airlines websites and online travel agencies. Here is the address –

dan Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 2:16 PM PT

Guys check out this site

Randy Smith Monday, June 25, 2007 at 2:55 PM PT

So that you know, there is a new format that combines a Travel Search Engine and a commerce platform. the joint platforms allows this Israeli start-up to create a price comparison platform for the end users and an e-marketplace for travel companies.
They are currently operating in Israel, but I am sure they will go global soon.

Chen Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 4:43 AM PT


Can you please verify that URL, it goes to a dead page.


JR Friday, January 25, 2008 at 4:37 PM PT

Hi people

There is a new travel search engine that lists Africa’s tour sites. Its

Job Nyamolo Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 11:08 PM PT

You can check Jetcost as well, a new Flight Search Engine.
The address is:

John Friday, April 25, 2008 at 1:34 AM PT