TripAdvisor Plays the Kevin Bacon Game to Make Reviews More Social (Sort Of)

TripAdvisor already has one of the Top 25 most popular apps on Facebook, and now it’s doing an even deeper level of integration on its homepage to surface more relevant reviews.

The travel site is launching a new Friend of a Friend feature today, allowing users to see if a hotel has been reviewed by Facebook friends and their friends’ friends. It’s sort of like playing the Kevin Bacon game, but instead of six degrees of separation, TripAdvisor is only using one.

TripAdvisor’s VP of Global Product, Adam Medros, said that by adding connections, visitors are 10 times more likely to see reviews written by people in their network — even in obscure locations, ranging from Istanbul to Duluth, Minn.

“It’s always been a little hit or miss,” Medros said, about the likelihood of a friend having reviewed a hotel in the city you were searching. “Now, we’ve stretched the coverage by going out by one degree.”

The new feature is the latest move by TripAdvisor to make the 60 million reviews on its site more social. The company first got involved in Facebook five years ago, when it launched an app called Cities I’ve Visited, which lets you mark on a map where you’ve traveled.

With the help of that application and other efforts, TripAdvisor is the 18th most popular application on the social network, with 18.5 million monthly visitors, according to AppData.

The announcement today continues to leverage a partnership with Facebook, which gives TripAdvisor permission to personalize their Web experience using data from the social network. Only seven other companies have similar permissions.

To use the new Friend of a Friend feature, visitors to the site must log in using their Facebook account. Once they’ve done that and have conducted a hotel search, a little bubble will highlight that a review was written by a friend or someone a friend knows. In a search under Istanbul, I had no immediate friends who had reviewed hotels, but thanks to my friends’ friends, I had 10 reviews within my expanded network to check out.

It’s worth noting that TripAdvisor does not disclose any personal information about the friend, like their name or picture.

“We’ve always had this interesting challenge, where we have so much content for properties around the world — at some point, that’s helpful, but I’d love to see reviews from people like me,” Medros said.

Of course, there’s no telling if your friend’s friend is like you. “It still requires some weeding out,” Medros acknowledged.

He also said that the company has discussed the value in extending it even further. “It’s a running joke that if you take it out to three degrees, that everyone is a friend of everyone. I think we’ll stick with one degree for now.”


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— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik