Through the looking glass

Comment: Last month in Las Vegas, editor Colleen Isherwood attended the Expedia Partner Conference—which was, of course, all about technology.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

Last month in Las Vegas, I attended the Expedia Partner Conference—which was, of course, all about technology. John Kim, VP global products for Brand Expedia is a self-confessed geek. He presented his breakout session on technology innovation wearing a Google glass—one of those screens that attaches to your glasses.

The idea is that you can wear it all the time. It can take pictures, record videos, contact friends so you can hang out, and provide you with directions.
“People are curious and amused. They wonder what it’s like,” Kim told his audience. “Some people are confused.”

The idea is that it’s supposed to be worn all the time, but some delicate questions of etiquette do arise, Kim noted.

“If I’m taking it into the washroom, people can’t tell if I’m taking a photo or a video.” Is it rude to wear a glass in that situation?

John Kim models Google glass.

John Kim models Google glass.


Kim gave the glass an A-plus for effort. “They charged me $1,500, and they retail at $2,500. Right now, they’re a novelty. People would probably buy them if they cost $250.”

Kim gave the glass an A-plus for being geeky, and the same grade for being socially awkward.

Will the glass catch on?  And if it does, what effect will it have on technologies of the future?

“I am wearing the Internet—it’s connected to my eye, not in my pocket. I have access to all human knowledge—I have an information advantage. I have total access to text and e-mail.”

But the glass is a whole different ball game—it doesn’t use a mouse. In fact, Kim said that by the year 2020 (give or take a year or two), there will be no laptops or desktops.

The idea of a session, and the use of cookies to track usage are “dead,” said Kim. Data streaming is the way to go, and Expedia is changing its information architecture to reflect that reality.

In fact, Expedia has the resources to make small changes every day, with hundreds of “A/B tests” each year. At any one time, they put out slightly different versions of websites, and these sites are constantly battling each other to see which one is more effective. With each incremental change, Expedia is keeping an eye on the future.

Kim mentioned a couple of Google innovations. One is the Scratchpad. When you sit down at a desk to search for a vacation destination, you start clicking. But  studies show that it takes 90 seconds to forget what you saw. In the old days, travellers would write things down so that they could remember what they saw. And now, Scratchpad does that for you on the computer.  What’s more, if the prices change, Scratchpad can make that adjustment for you.

“The whole marketplace is alive, and [static] notes become useless. Scratchpad gives us total recall of everything we looked at.” Best of all, Scratchpad operates across different devices and doesn’t use cookies for tracking.

Mobile itinerary sharing is another Expedia innovation that allows you to share your travel status.

“We’re moving away from the html web page to a live data exchange,” said Kim. “It’s an ambitious vision, and the real problem is to make it simple.”