7 years ago

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.

The visual search element of Ruba is similar to others working around the same idea of using images to spearhead the start of travel research, such as Fodors and 101Holidays.

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 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.

Update 2:

TechCrunch is reporting that the team behind Ruba is the main reason for the acquisition, not the brand itself.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  6. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Whether you buy this or not, I’m hearing that the Ruba deal has nothing to do with travel, but was all about the Ruba team.

  7. James Penman

    People need a reason to book a flight or accommodation. Panoramio was samll in the scheme of things when they acquired that in 2007. Tours/curated travel ideas seem a great fit to what Google already have and what they appear to have in pipeline.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @james – agree. think: hotel pricing on maps, ITA for flights, ruba for tours.

  8. Stuart

    Looks to me to be a people and perhaps tech acquisition. Is there really much of a community there once the tour operators (of which there appear to be very many) are discounted?

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @stuart – yes, bought not for the service, but the idea, methinks.

  9. Brian Tan

    @Dennis: Totally agreed on the technology! What I meant was that it’s hard to see what Google would do with Ruba the *business*, which has been centered around building a community and listings of tours, generating leads for tour operators. With the technology, oh yes, plenty of cool things to come from Google…

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @brian – you’ve actually missed the point here, I think.

      you say: “it’s hard to see what Google would do with Ruba the *business*, which has been centered around building a community and listings of tours, generating leads for tour operators”…

      Where in fact that is EXACTLY the only reason for buying Ruba, IMHO.

  10. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Brian: I can see a LOT that Google can do with Ruba. In fact, to me Ruba really takes a leap forward in trip planning and travel inspiration. The way Ruba integrates with Google Maps and the imagery it provides on various tours is really impressive. I can see Google combining this sort of thing with its hotel mapping experiment and hotel pricing for a truly unique trip-planning and shopping experience. I really look forward to seeing what Google and Ruba will come up with. I think the travel industry is looking to the new TravelPost and I’m looking to the newbie Room 77 for some truly creative efforts. I guess no one has ever underestimated Google, which looks like it too can come up with something game-changing.

  11. Brian Tan

    Mike Cassidy is a great entrepreneur and Arnaud Weber is a great engineer. I can see Google acquiring the team / tech, but hard to see what they would do with Ruba. TechCrunch’s update said “Google tells us that they didn’t actually acquire Ruba, but the team behind Ruba will be joining the Google team to work on iGoogle and other projects,” while one of the commenters wrote that Ruba has now emailed users that they will be shutting down the service.

  12. John T. Peters

    Yet again, another scoop by tnooz. Honestly, I read it here first so kudos to you Kevin.

    I think this was about the package; tech, community and expertise. At 15 months in, team Ruba and investors make a nice return and Google snaps up something before anyone else does. Clearly the Google connection got them on the radar but hey, who cares, they scored.

  13. Stephen Joyce

    I would guess it is the technology behind the media platform for marketing and sharing tours. Kind of like a Google Local Tours but on steroids. I doubt it was for either the community or the domain since the site is driving very modest traffic when compared with other community sites, like your’s Sam.


  14. Faraz

    Agree its likely the tech & expertise. The site has done a nice job of integrating with Facebook and Twitter..and has a pretty active community (badges, points, etc.). The visual discovery is also nice. And I’m sure one of founders being an ex-googler helped get them on Google’s radar:)

    @Sam Re domain name, I would be surprised thats a reason. What the heck is a ‘Ruba’ anyway?

  15. Sam Daams

    Seeing as I totally don’t get the move my guess is it’s about the domainname.

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