Not so cool tool: TripAdvisor's new "Trip Friends" feature

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Now and then, everyone needs a little advice from a friend.

And helping you tap into the wisdom of your friends is precisely what the new "TripAdvisor Trip Friends" tool hopes to do. Let's say you are planning a trip to Italy and want to find a great little café with unbelievably delectable pistachio cream cannoli. TripAdvisor's free new service will allow you to direct your question only to friends who have already visited Italy. Instead of relying on the advice of total strangers, you can get tips straight from your buddies.

The sign-up process is fairly straightforward: First, log onto your TripAdvisor account. Grant TripAdvisor permission to access your Facebook account. You must also "Like" the TripAdvisor Cities I've Visited application on Facebook.

Your list of Facebook friends will then pop up as a sidebar next to TripAdvisor hotel reviews and related information. Pose a question through a Facebook message (which is private, person-to-person).

I put the service to the test today and found that it wasn't all that it's cracked up to be. TripAdvisor appears to be banking on the idea that most or all of your Facebook friends make use of the app. But how often is that the case?

When I tried the tool, only 48 out of 1,500 of my friends had signed up for that app, severely limiting its usefulness to me. For instance, while many of my friends have visited Italy, only one of them has told TripAdvisor's app that fact, leaving me with only one person to ask for advice.

Even if all of my friends were all signed up, I'm not sure I'd be any more excited to use the tool. Would I be comfortable asking my 57-year-old first cousin once removed (whose Friend Request I felt too guilty to ignore) about his recent Italian adventure? Not really.

—Emily Liftman

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