Sharing ideas with the world

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sharing and Discovering Experiences

9:02 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal , , No comments
Since the early days of internet, people have been fascinated with its potential to connect humans (and even things) from all over the world. With recent advancements, such as the ones in SoLoMo and cloud computing, that dream has started to take a clear shape now - with a lot of potential to be much more than what it currently is. Based on this premise many industries and areas are still waiting to be disrupted, and of these the one that I found most interesting is that of experiences.

Currently, the experiences market is mostly dominated by the travel industry and the packages that travel agents and companies offer. However, even though these companies and agents talk about experiences they are still pretty much all about booking cars, flights and hotels. You do not go to places to live in a hotel or drive in a car. You go to places to check out new things - to have new experiences. 

There aren't many popular web-based applications around that allow people to discover and book experiences online. Sites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia are more about travel than experiences. Plus, their user interface can be too intimidating for many people. Some of the applications that I have come across that actually allow people to view and book experiences on the web 
(such as Virgin Experience Days and Red Letter Days) do not do a good job in terms of the user experience and design. They still look like web applications from the old world. Because of this absence of good online applications for discovering [and booking] experiences, most of the people take on to Google. The problem, however, here is that Google is a generic search engine. It was designed to discover web pages and links, not life experiences. And while Google's constraint in discovery can be overcome by social networks - where people discover experiences that others have lived and recommended - none of the social networks is looking into experiences in particular. They are all happy being generic platforms for connecting people, making them play games and upload photos of babies and spouses. 

My Two Cents 

I can imagine a good online experience engine to be able to allow people to upload their experiences; discover new experiences based on location, time and budget; connect or follow people who have lived or would like to live similar experiences; follow certain types of experiences so that they can get informed when something new comes up on the radar. In effect a good experience application will be a combination of Google (for search), Facebook and Twitter (for social networking) customized to just serve the experiences

In addition to that, such an experience service has to be driven by design. As startups such as AirBnB and Fab have shown us, good design can be very a powerful differentiator. And you could definitely use some differentiation in an overcrowded, easily imitate-able market such as that of experiences. While good design might seem a luxury at the beginning, it certainly has the potential to be a powerful crowd puller. 

A good online experience application can help people live their lives better, as they will be able to better plan their free time; check out things they can do on the days they are free, or places they can go in the weekends or for vacations. One of the most exciting things about such a service can be that it can introduce people to places and experiences that they have never heard of before, instead of the same old popular destinations everyone knows about. I believe that a good [online] experience application has the potential to really change and improve our real [offline] lives.

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