Remember Farecast? Bye-bye, Bing Price Predictor
Farecast was a free service that helped travelers decide whether they should buy a ticket now or wait and hope that the fare drops.
The startup’s predictions of whether you should “buy” or “wait” were based on an analysis of historic price data. It was the first Big Data play in consumer travel.
Microsoft incorporated the technology in its Bing search engine, creating a Bing Travel section that was prominently linked off the homepage. When any user attempted to do a travel search on Bing, they were prompted to visit the Bing.com/travel page for results.
In 2009, Tnooz reported on a brain drain, as key Farecast team members left Microsoft.
Two-and-a-half years ago, while Bing’s homepage today kept a Travel link at its top, Bing Travel had almost ceased to exist as an organizational grouping within the corporation.
Fast forward to today. Price predictions — the “buy” or “wait” signals that were the core of Farecast’s product — have disappeared. Travel is also gone from the Bing for iPhone app.
A Microsoft spokesperson tells Tnooz:
“Bing is no longer offering Price Predictor, but remains committed to delivering a comprehensive travel experience that gives people great travel information including flight and hotel search functionality.
“When travelers search for tickets on a specific date on bing.com/travel as a US user, Bing Travel will still return a detailed overview of available flights that includes ticket price, airline, estimated departure and arrival times, airports of origin and destination, number of layovers and estimated flying time.
The Bing Travel “Time Grid” makes picking the right flight easy by visually showing the best fares based on your desired timeframe.
There are also extra enhancements to help with the decision process – for example Bing Travel clearly identifies whether or not a flight is a red-eye or has an especially short connection.
Travelers can find relevant travel information in new and visually compelling ways through the Bing Travel app and Bing Smart Search for Windows 8.1 and Bing Maps.”
The Bing Travel app for Windows, which Tnooz covered at launch, doesn’t have price predictor either.
So Farecast’s signature legacy has vanished, though its concept may have inspired Kayak to introduce airfare predictions on its metasearch tool last autumn.
Farecast CEO Hugh Crean was recently an entrepreneur in residence at General Catalyst Partners. Oren Etzioni, whose algorithm launched the product, is now CEO of the AIlen Institute for AI. Jay Bartot, the engineering co-founder, is an independent consultant, after having served executive stints at a few companies.
Who would have forecast this outcome in 2008?
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.