The world’s biggest travel site has turned the industry upside down – but now it is struggling to deal with the same kinds of problems that are vexing other tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. By Linda Kinstler
Should one be so unlucky as to find oneself, as I did, lying awake in bed in the early hours of the morning in a hostel in La Paz, Bolivia, listening anxiously to the sound of someone trying to force their way into one’s room, one could do worse than to throw a chair under the doorknob as a first line of defence. But this is not what I did. Instead, I held my breath and waited until the intruder, ever so mercifully, abandoned his project and sauntered down the hall. The next morning, when I raised the incident with the hostel employee at the front desk, he said the attempted intrusion had just been an innocent mistake, a misdirected early-morning wake-up call gone wrong, and what was the big deal, anyway? Fuming, I turned to the highest authority in the world of international travel, the only entity to which every hotel, restaurant, museum and attraction in the world is beholden: I left the hostel a bad review on TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor is where we go to praise, criticise and purchase our way through the inhabited world. It is, at its core, a guestbook, a place where people record the highs and lows of their holiday experiences for the benefit of hotel proprietors and future guests. But this guestbook lives on the internet, where its contributors continue swapping advice, memories and complaints about their journeys long after their vacations have come to an end.