Sean O'Neill of Tnooz reports, "Last week saw the soft launch of Hopper, the long-awaited consumer trip planning engine that claims to be powered by the 'world’s largest structured database of travel information'. Since last summer, the site has put wannabe users on a waiting list, allowing only a handful to become beta testers. But as of now, the bouncer’s gone. Anyone can create an account, road-test tools, and book flights. Founded in 2007 and based in Boston and Montreal, the company has 23 full-time employees and has received more than $22 million in funding from backers such as Brightspark, Atlas Venture, and OMERS Ventures. It claims to have breakthrough semantic search technology."
O'Neill continues, "This is not a 'launch' for Hopper, the company is at pains to point out. It’s just that the general public can now open up free accounts. The startup notes it is still in 'alpha' mode. For instance, it says it has something special on the flight product side yet to debut. Out of the gate, the inspiration engine primarily invites users to search by destination name. Photo-heavy summaries — up to 10,000, so far — have been aggregated from disparate sources: mostly from travel blogs and Wikipedia. On each destination page, which can get as granular as the name of a pub in a small British city, Hopper has a simple flight search module, which suggests a calendar for the cheapest dates to fly from a user’s preferred airport. A couple of airfares are listed, along with estimated multi-modal travel times, point-to-point. The simplicity of showing only a few fares apparently aims to be an antidote to the typical overwhelm of most sites’ search results."
Image: Courtesy Hopper