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Startup Hipmunk offers dazzling new view of flight search (cnn.com)
50 points by jacquesm on Aug 19, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments

Perhaps during query you might want to show "Searching..." instead of "Loading..."? The word "loading" gives me the impression that the site is struggling to process the information and is currently on heavy load. While "Searching" gives me the impression of whats its actually doing, looking up the flights you are searching for.

I guess I am nitpicking. :)

Favorite feedback of the day! Something that both makes sense AND is easy to do.

Hey, thats the least I could do for giving us reddit. :)

If you do not mind sharing a shop secret, how did you make CNN? Did you use a publicist? Do you know someone? Or did they just call you out of the blue?

CNN contacted us, but we launched with a fair amount of press from people we had relationships with (e.g. techcrunch, reddit), which is probably what led them to us.

I predict that it's only a matter of (short) time before one or more of the larger airfare search engines start to clone the output visualization. I understood it the first moment I looked at it.. just made sense, really. Great job, Hipmunk.. logo is cuddly adorable, too. :)

They should clone the visualization, but if other large companies are any indication, the process will take months. They can't clone the hipmunk, though ;) thanks for validating my doodle-work.

The hipmunk is a stroke of brilliance.

In the article it says:

> Hipmunk's flight-goggled chipmunk mascot has the same "awww" factor as Twitter's iconic bluebird. With that, Hipmunk was born.

But I think it goes far beyond the Twitter bird, which to me looks very sterile and artificial. This little guy is cool, like the Scrat character from ice-age.

Whatever happens, be proud of that visualization. Fucking slick.

Chipmunk isn't bad either.

I think "dazzling" may be overkill. They have slightly modified output already available (grouping it). It's incredibly nice, but I'm not sure it's dazzling -- yet.

It did make CNN though, which I think is pretty damn good publicity.

Some minor feedback: When search results are loading, I get confused by that general information image you have there showing a trip from San Francisco to JFK. For a split second, I think my search got messed up before realizing my actual search is in the background up top. So maybe make it clearer that you're showing me a sample search.

It's exactly identical to this [1], which is quite good also!

[1]: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

Similar visualization, but totally different products.

I think the most important feature we have is that we remove about 80% of results from listings because they're totally redundant.

We also have draggable time sliders, instant sorting, and multiple searches in tabs, all of which are things we added to make finding flights less tedious.

Also, you can't book tickets on matrix...

The draggable time sliders seal the deal for me. Finally I can choose between the for flights that are actually relevant to me and not the 200 that aren't.

Find a way to get Southwest in your output and I'll never use another site.

By "exactly identical" you mean "superficially similar."

The hipmunk version actually has a ranking and crowding function, whereas matrix just lists them all.

Matrix feels sluggish and under-responsive while Hipmunk feels crisp and snappy. Even if every other feature were the same, Hipmunk wins for that reason alone.

That's true but you can't really make any statements about that until you know how much traffic each is currently processing. A newcomer always has an initial edge there. But if hipmunk manages to keep their current speed they'll blow matrix right out of the water.

The good news is most of our work is done client-side, which scales quite nicely.

> Server: HipmunkServer/0.1

what's a hipmunkserver? Is that a changed server id or is it really something custom?

It's just a custom Server header.

Do you mind revealing what it is built in? Or is that part of the secret sauce?

It's built entirely of secret sauce, incidentally. And Python.

I'll take that for an answer :) Good luck with it, it looks like you have a winner on your hands.

Python + Tornado + SQLAlchemy according to Steve Huffman


Who is the target market for this? Most of the comments here are targeted towards the visualization aspect. Isn't the real value in providing people with cheaper fares from the carriers they like?

Personally, flight times and layovers are quite important to me. I'm a ferry ride away from the airport, so leaving early, or arriving late really sucks. Either a night in the car at the dock, or an extra hotel stay.

I put in a search for a flight that I recently booked, and the two top choices were the ones that we had pulled out of tens of kayak searches. They were right there. Not the cheapest, but the most sane. Kayak had a couple of flights in the early results with a 12 hour layover in Pdx followed by a 30 min flight to Seatac. They were way down in the agony listing on hipmonk.

Cheaper fares are not the only factor in selecting a flight. This sort of layout makes it easier to make an informed choice along several other axes as well. It's a better presentation of information that allows easier decision making.

I tried searching from Sweden, and it assumes I want to fly from Sundsvall. Not likely. Either implement searching from all airports in a country, or require me to enter a city.

Also, any chance it will be possible to search for date ranges rather than exact departure and return dates?

Third, a mouseover for airport codes and airline names would be great.

Perhaps you are aiming for frequent business travelers that have fixed dates and know all the airport codes by heart, but I thought I'd share my thoughts.

Love this. A true "why hasn't anyone done this?" moment for me. If they can expand the range of providers to be competitive with Kayak and Skyscanner I'd make this my first and only stop.

Speaking of travel visualizations... a shameless plug for my own "Hotels.com hotels on Google Maps" site: http://www.roomatlas.com. Live prices in the markers, Street View and Wikipedia placemarks.

Hmmmm... "Agony sort" doesn't seem to take into account whether one airline is better or worse than another, which definitely influences the amount of agony I experience while traveling. Sometimes people are willing to pay a little extra or be flexible on price in order to fly their preferred airline, or at least avoid one they dislike.

The UI is reminiscent of the hypothetical Southwest Airlines redesign from "Magic Ink" (http://worrydream.com/MagicInk/#demonstration_trip_planning_...).

This is a good thing. It's sad how few of the great ideas in that essay have been realized.

Doesn't have the depth of information (airports and airlines) that Matrix has, but I'm a big fan of the UI.

Also, props for the great customer service (had a very helpful chat with someone) and for the continuous deployment while launching (was told "reload your page, and check out this new feature we just pushed").

Really good. But I need an "open jaws" option, i.e. fly from A to B and then C to A. Usually (at least on the routes I use) this gets priced at 1/2 the price of a round trip A-B plus 1/2 the price of a round trip A-C. Buying two one-way tickets is no substitute because it usually costs far more.

Wow, awesome press right after launch for @spez and gang. While the HN first reaction may have been "oh, ITA already did that", the mainstream reaction is apparently quite different. Good on them for commercializing this idea and bringing it to a wide audience.

Tried to search from NYC to Panama city in Feb: "sorry, no results could be found"

Do I need real airport codes?

Display of results is nice.

What's especially commendable is the fact that the search works quite nicely over intercontinental flights with many connections and also far into the future (2011).

I can see you are using Amazon EC2.

Any other comment on the technology used?

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