When people ask me whether investing in web services is a long-term opportunity, I often say that “we ain’t seen nothing yet.”
I was reminded of that when I went to the web to find a hotel to stay in Miami when I am down there for Future Of Web Apps in February.
In the past, I'd have tried TripAdvisor or maybe even Google. But just in the past few months, there are two really great new ways to do this.
The first is Oyster, a web service dedicated to honest and excellent hotel reviews. They literally send out a person to stay in the hotel for a few days, take their own undoctored photos, and present in a clear and concise format. Here's their page on Miami hotels, and here's a page on Tides in South Beach, which they say has awesome rooms.
Oyster's strength, personally crafted reviews, is also its weakness because they only have reviews right now for certain destinations. I suspect it will take them a few years to be totally comprehensive. However, because so much hotel seeking traffic comes from Google, they can be a great service for people who start their hotel searches at Google. If you see an Oyster result in Google, you should absolutely click on it.
The other way to do it is Hunch. Instead of hiring "experts" to go out and review the hotels, Hunch takes an approach that is more like wikipedia. They crowdsource questions and answers from thousands of "contributors" and then package them up in easy question and answer sessions that lead you to the "right answer".
Try this hotels in miami page and see how it works. You'll notice that Hunch doesn't give you just one answer. It gives you a "best" answer and three other suggestions. I've found that not only do I get good advice from Hunch, it also helps me quickly understand the tradeoffs I am making in hotel decisions.
Of course, there's a natural partnership between Hunch and Oyster around hotels. Hunch is good at framing the decision and giving you a short list to consider. Oyster is great for digging into the specifics of the hotel to get to the final choice.
Since both companies are in NYC and are part of the great startup culture we've got going here, I bet that's not too hard to make happen.