One Sign Fears About Google Moving Into Travel Were Overblown

Google Maps was both the top travel app and top mobile site in June, accounting for 78 percent of all time spent in the travel category.

While that pretty much makes it the go-to mapping service on phones, the search giant did not score as high when it came to providing other travel services, such as information about flights and reviews.

Those categories, which people typically find handy to access while on vacation, were dominated by other providers, according to a study conducted by Nielsen, which tracked usage data from 5,000 U.S. smartphone owners.

Nielsen said when it came to other services, consumers were more likely to visit single-purpose apps, such as GasBuddy, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor or Expedia.

Even though the study was limited to mobile behaviors, the findings suggest the exact opposite of what some feared just months ago — that Google would dominate flight bookings and local search after spending big bucks to acquire ITA Software, the airline data company, and, to a lesser extent, Zagat, the reviews company.

The U.S. Department of Justice ultimately gave Google permission to acquire ITA for $700 million, but the search giant had to agree to a set of concessions designed to minimize the impact to competition.

Google continues to integrate the data it has acquired, so it is still too early to make any final judgments about the potential impact it could have. But if it can successfully leverage its mapping services, it will obviously have a powerful launching pad to reach millions of customers for other services.

For example, in June, 77.8 million U.S. smartphone owners used Google’s maps applications across both Android and iPhone. The second-most popular app was GasBuddy, which attracted 8.9 million users looking for the nearest gas station offering the lowest prices. The third most popular app was also a Google mapping property called Street View, which is available on Android. However, the only content application to make it was IAC-owned Urbanspoon, which provides recommendations for nearby restaurants — similar to Google-owned Zagat.

Nielsen also broke out the most used travel sites. The list provided a much wider variety of services, maybe because people are more likely to need the information at least once, but don’t need ongoing access to the application for future reference. Again, Google Maps was dominant, but many other service providers made the rankings.

Here’s that list:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work