TripAdvisor used to promise its users a kind of escape, whether that be simply daydreaming over a vacation or actually booking one. Yet at a moment where such adages now seem horribly outdated, the future of TripAdvisor and similar enterprises seems less certain than it once did.
Over its two decades in business, TripAdvisor has turned an initial investment of $3m into a $7bn business by figuring out how to provide a service that no other tech company has quite mastered: constantly updated information about every imaginable element of travel, courtesy of an ever-growing army of contributors who provide their services for free.
Browsing through TripAdvisor’s 660m reviews is a study in extremes. As a kind of mirror of the world and all its wonders, the site can transport you to the most spectacular landmarks, the finest restaurants, the most “adrenaline-pumping” water parks, the greatest “Hop-On Hop-Off Experiences” that mankind has ever devised.
Yet TripAdvisor reviews are also a ruthless audit of the earth’s many flaws. For every effusive review of the Eiffel Tower (“Worth the hype at night,” “Perfect Backdrop!”), there is another that suggests it is a blight on the face of the earth (“sad, ugly, don’t bother”; “similar to the lobby of a big Vegas casino, but outside”.)
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