Google buys online travel guide Ruba
Community site Ruba obviously has something different about it from the countless other travel guides on the web – demonstrated mainly by news that Google has just bought it.
The company has only been in existence for 15 months but the combination of what it calls “visual search” and community features has clearly caught Google’s eye.
Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Ruba officials made the announcement via their blog late on Friday night. Google and Ruba have yet to respond to media calls about the acquisition.
Behind the search process there is plenty of content, much of it user generated by what appears to be a reasonably active community.
Each member can submit a travel guide for a particular destination, plot elements of a trip on a map and show prices of accommodation and airfares in order to get there.
However this is where the acquisition becomes intriguing, especially when pondering how Google will integrate the site, if at all.
Ruba is by no means what some would call a classic or pure user generated content site – in fact, many of the community profiles on the site are actually tour operators openly flogging their services.
But clearly this is not the big move into the travel industry many were expecting – with the widely speculated deal for Google to buy ITA Software still languishing at all points between “definitely on” and “probably off”.
Ruba was launched in April 2009 by co-founders Mike Cassidy and Arnaud Weber – the former a CEO of three startups Xfire, Direct Hit, and Stylus Innovation, and Weber working as technical lead on Google Chrome.
The blog post says:
“We want to thank the entire Ruba community (guide writers, local experts, bloggers, and more) for all you’ve done along the way. We’d also like to thank our tour operator partners for sharing their tours on our site. Thank you for sharing your feedback, ideas, and of course your travel tips and experiences with our community.”
Unconfirmed reports suggest the Ruba site will be closed down within a few months and Google has simply acquired the technology and expertise.
If the Ruba closes and Google did indeed buy the company for its tech and people then it triggers a number of questions.
As Alex Bainbridge suggested a few weeks ago, Google has a number of opportunities ahead of it.
In Ruba’s case, could Google be buying a platform that allows it to display and market tour operator products in a far more interesting and intuitive way?
Is this another move into making search (it’s core product) more efficient, robust, enjoyable – a similar methodology Google is doing with hotel pricing on maps.
Some may have considered flights to be a next logical step (especially with the ITA rumours), but perhaps Google thinks otherwise.
TechCrunch is reporting that the team behind Ruba is the main reason for the acquisition, not the brand itself.
Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.