|by Sean O'Neill||Helpful Websites, Innovations||9|
A website is really remarkable when it finds a way for people to do something they never knew they wanted to do in a way they never realized could be so easy. Wander (onwander.com), which opened to the public today, strikes me as exactly that kind of website. But the trouble with such websites, such as Facebook, Kayak, and Pinterest, is that they're so innovative they can be hard to describe.
Here's my best shot: Wander is a clever, easy-to-use website where you can capture photos and tips about your adventure abroad, post a guide to your hometown, and share other aspects of travel that you love with strangers and friends.
Everything is arranged by places—the places that people have visited and the places they dream of visiting of. That makes the site easy to figure out.
The site poses a fill-in-the-blank question that you can answer quickly, similar to the cult app Amen. For instance, "I can't wait to spend the summer in *________ * my favorite place in the world." Type in, say, Rio de Janeiro, and, if you want, upload a photo from your recent trip there. You'll then be invited to see all the other photos and tips from other people who love Rio, plus all the other ideas people had for how they want to spend their summers.
Over time, you'll start to recognize contributors who think about travel similar to the way that you do, and you can "follow" them by putting their activity at the front of your news feed.
Yet Wander is mercifully not a social networking site. (You have enough "friends" online as it is, right?) Rather than try to be another Facebook, Wander lets users keep their identity under wraps—though a user does have to share his or her e-mail address with the company. In other words, users can sign up to try the site without revealing personally identifying details about themselves as they explore other people's photos and short travel tips.
Wander's most clever innovation that will likely be copied by other sites and that's been called "a new form of Internet language" by trade news site TechCrunch, namely, the star mention (*mention). When you post information, you add one of these little tags, or *mentions, which makes it easy for other travelers using the site to find the information if they think it will be relevant to them. For example, every item posted by anyone about Tokyo is connected to every other photo and tip about Tokyo.
One last reason why the website is worth signing up for to receive a beta invite: Wander has received more than a million dollars in start-up funding and it has an all-star cast of business advisors from Silicon Valley. So the time you invest in learning about it will probably pay off. The site is unlikely to be a flash-in-the pan, but rather a mainstay of the travel scene.
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