Curious developments in the world of maps, pricing and metasearch as it appears Google was courting a metasearch player in 2009.
Beatrice Tarka, the co-founder and CEO of travel metasearch engine Mobissimo, says Google expressed interest in the company, viewed a demo of a Mobissimo’s visual-search hotel product under development, and then allegedly introduced a “close copy” in the form of Google Maps with hotel search and pricing.
Mobissimo presented Google with a demo of the Mobissimo hotel product at Mobissimo’s San Francisco office in September 2009.
Tarka says Google was shopping around for good ideas and over the last year the company and Google had been talking about working together in some fashion on a hotel product.
But in October 2009, after seeing the Mobissimo product demo a month earlier, Google went silent, Tarka says.
“It looks like Google is moving on their own,” Tarka concludes.
The scenario that Tarka describes — if true — is a familiar one in the corporate world.
A large company expresses interest in buying or partnering with a competitor or smaller company as the suitor tackles a problem and ponders whether to build or buy. The large company picks the brain of the smaller company, gathers some intelligence and then proceeds with its own solution.
Tarka alternately characterizes Google’s introduction of maps with hotel search and pricing as ¬†”sad” and “funny” — given what she views as the “resemblance” to the still-under development Mobissimo hotel product shown to Google last year.
“We are not bitter about it,” Tarka says. “It happens.”
“We took our lesson that it’s better not to show the products,” Tarka adds.
Tarka says there is no “proof” that Google stole anything from Mobissimo, adding that companies can build similar products.
“We are pleased that the product was good enough for Google to even look at,” she says.
Google Maps with hotel pricing is available in beta to a limited number of users and it currently gets hotel pricing from a small number of advertisers.
Google’s Lat Long Blog states: “While we’re experimenting with this feature, we’re currently working with a limited number of advertisers and it will only be visible to a small portion of users . As always, we’ll evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness of this new feature based on both data and feedback, and hope to make it available to more users and offer prices from more partners over time.”
Tarka says Mobissimo suggested to Google that Google Maps display hotel pricing from major online travel agencies.
So, perhaps OTA hotel pricing will be incorporated into the next iteration of Google Maps.
In an odd turn of events, Tarka now says perhaps Mobissimo will soon have to ask Google how much it would cost for Mobissimo hotel pricing to be included in Google Maps.
A Google spokeswoman says the company wasn’t immediately familiar with Mobissimo’s concerns about Google Maps with hotel pricing, so Google wasn’t in a position to comment. The Google spokeswoman says: “We’ll be happy to assuage their concerns when we’ve had a chance to review [them]…”
Meanwhile, with Google apparently ramping up a hotel-metasearch product, one might surmise that Google is working on a flight-metasearch product, as well, especially given how Bing Travel’s airfare predictions are tightly integrated into the Bing search engine.
I wonder if any of the flight metasearch companies are currently sharing any product demos with Google.
If so, Tarka may have some advice for them.