Kayak to Google: Bring it onNewsBy Dennis Schaal | July 21, 2011Share This article was originally published on With Google believed to be fine-tuning its ITA Software-powered flight search product, Kayak will have to compete, whether or not it executes an IPO.So Kayak is now speaking publicly about the much-anticipated skirmish -- and if you buy the arguments it won't hurt Kayak'[s IPO's chances -- and the bottom line is that although Kayak concedes Google is an expert in search, Kayak believes it has the upper hand in travel search.And, believe it or not, in scale, as well.Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer, notes that Kayak processes about 70 million queries per month, around 85% of which are for flights, and he believes Google Travel would be handling far fewer queries than Kayak.At least in the short term.Birge says Kayak has the scale advantage in travel search. "We are very confident in our technology and the ability to compete and we believe we have the best tech in the market," Birge says.Getting into the specifics, Birge says Kayak has the competitive advantage over Google in four areas: Multiple and redundant data sources: Kayak accesses flight data from ITA Software, Amadeus (for both domestic and international) and has direct-connected into XML APIs for dozens of airlines and online travel agencies, including American Airlines, Virgin America, KLM, Air France, LAN, Orbitz, Opodo, Vayama, Expedia and LastMinute.com. And, in the past 30 days, Kayak has displayed flight search results from 429 airlines.A unique and proprietary method for searching ITA data: Searching ITA flight data is very complex and each query has hundreds of possible tuning parameters. Basically, Birge believes Kayak, which has been optimizing searches of ITA data by route for the past seven years, can search ITA data better than ITA or any other competitor can search ITA data. He adds that on a monthly basis Kayak rejects millions of fares from ITA because they allegedly are inaccurate. So when Google launches a consumer-facing website, Kayak will have the advantage in terms of results' accuracy, Birge claims. Birge adds that Kayak was very pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice, when it issued the consent decree about Google's ITA Software acquisition, required Google to install firewalls so Google would not be able to learn from its licensees about things such as methods to search ITA data. A patent-pending accuracy engine: Birge believes Kayak's patent-pending Flight Caching Methods and Apparatus engine, which optimizes data from multiple sources route by route, will provide faster and more accurate search results.User Interface: Birge says Kayak pioneered a stripped-down user interface with its various filters and will have an advantage over Google flight search in data accuracy and speed. Birge says Kayak is a travel specialist and that although Google has massive resources, the speed of Kayak's technology innovation will outstrip Google's on flight search. In addition, he points out, ITA has little experience in launching consumer-facing websites. "We are obsessed with speed, but we won't sacrifice accuracy to improve speed," Birge says. "We have to improve speed by other means."Search results accuracy is key, he notes, because few things turn off consumers more than an advertised fare that can't actually be booked.Asked to comment on some of Kayak's boasts, Cara Kretz, an ITA Software spokeswoman, declined to get into detail, but said: "We believe QPX [flight search technology] is highly flexible and sophisticated technology."Kayak, of course, uses ITA's QPX and the contract expires at the end of 2013.Birge won't comment on whether contract renewal talks are under way and merely says that the two parties have an existing contract.ITA is obligated under the consent decree to renew contacts with licensees and a grievance process is in place if that doesn't happen.