Back in December 2011, TripBirds was one of many (many, many) so-called social travel sites, created so users can get tips from their friends using the social graph.
The Stockholm-based startup had $750,000 in investment from the likes of Index Ventures, Passion Capital and Creandum (as well some high profile angels) when it launched and was lauded as the hottest startups in Sweden by Wired magazine.
It collected data from a user's friends from their activity on Facebook, FourSquare, Gowalla (RIP) and Instagram, and allowed them to interact and ask questions, etc.
Eight months on and the company is performing the classic switch in direction that many startups make after a few months of tearing down the runway (and often shortening the financial burn-rate with expenses and little revenue).
TripBirds is now a "social hotel-booking site", combining what it calls traditional information on hotels alongside data collected from a user's social network.
TripBirds works out if friends have stayed at a property and allows the user to ping them for recommendations via Facebook. Other content is automatically streamed into property pages, such as Instagram pictures.
Alongside some useful sharing and bookmarking tools, TripBirds has combined maps and filters into the new platform.
Although the company says it plans to integrate the actually booking element of the process into the site in due course, users are currently whisked off to Booking.com to finalise the details.
The idea of having a user's social graph to help with product selection (especially hotels) is not new, with TripAdvisor's Trip Friends service being on the market for over two years.
An official says:
"We think that we're quite different from TripAdvisor, and that we have a different focus. We bring in more social data, for example friends comments/photos/videos related to a check in as well as Instagram photos.
"These are quite interesting, I mean you usually don’t take an instagram photo to write a good or bad hotel review - you take it to capture a moment. This gives you a richer picture of what the hotel is like, what kind of atmosphere, what kind of crowd goes there etc.
"We also display this information in a quite different way, trying to put the social data in focus. Our aim is to bring in as much social data as possible to the service.
"Another difference is our booking process - the shortlist. Booking a hotel is usually a time consuming and lonely task, and you usually end up with numerous hotels in browser tabs, that you have to flick between in order to compare your candidates.
"The shortlist makes the booking process simple as well as social, since you can invite your co-travellers to it, you can all add/remove and discuss on the site which hotel you like the best, or you can share it on facebook/twitter if you like and get advice and tips from friends. We make the entire booking process social."
Comments from one of the TripBirds investors, Fredrik Cassel of Creandum, hint at why the company has switched model quite quickly.
"Online hotel bookings is a multi-million dollar market. Social media is fundamentally changing how internet users are researching and booking hotels.
"Joining social data with existing data about hotels makes perfect sense. There are lots of travel and hotel booking sites out there but still a lot of room for innovation."
The official TripBirds reason:
"After being in open beta for a while we learned that out service needed to be easier to understand as well as instantly create value for our users, regardless of how many friends you have on the site.
"After long discussions and listening to user feedback we decided on focusing on only one part of social travel - hotel bookings. And doing that really well."