Seattle-based Trover announced today the launch of their new website, which complements their free iOS and Android apps that let users upload photos of their discoveries while exploring their own cities or traveling the world. Started by Zillow co-founder and former Expedia CEO Richard Barton, Trover provides an online gateway for people to find new places of interest close to them while also showing what people found interesting on the other side of the world.
The mobile apps launched in 2011, and let users take and share photos, whether at home or abroad, add a description, and create lists of activities. “We were looking at new ways for people to explore and travel with a smartphone, specifically honing in on a couple of things. One, the proliferation of photo-sharing as a way to tell stories, two, the geo-location capabilities of the phone which make it much more useful as a tool for exploring the earth, and then three, just the level of social connectivity of the smartphone,” CEO Jason Karas said in an interview.
The move to the desktop is a response to the fact that users were moving past the app’s trip-planning functionality and browsing images of places and objects curated by the online community. “A fair number of people are just using it for entertainment, they’re not using it in a practical sense at all. The reason we know this is because people are opening the app and they’re looking at 20, 30, 40 images. Our average page views per visit is 37, people are coming in, they’re not looking for a particular thing, they are just getting in and jumping around and take a mental vacation for five minutes to go somewhere else,” Karas said.
Users can browse photos on the new Trover website by viewing lists compiled by other users, collections of images that relate to a personal interest, must-see places, and specific adventures. Trover aggregates photos of a specific place or thing and then users can vote for an image so that a person visiting the list on Trover only sees what others consider to be the best images. Users can also search for any place, interest, or activity, and the new web version also provides instant access to nearby activities, showing nearby activities first, and moving away from a user’s current location as they scroll through the images.
Although the company’s current focus remains on building up the user base, Karas said they have several options for monetization, included targeted advertising. He also said they’re considering providing travel deals based on an individual’s interests, or discounts to nearby restaurant and bars.
There are no shortage of social travel guides and local review apps out there, including Yelp, Everplaces, and Urbantag, which are already attempting to be a definitive place for people to share photos, reviews and lists of to-dos. But rather than compare the platform to social travel guides, Karas said Trover isn’t meant just for travelers.
“We have a problem with apps completely focused on travel, because travel is an infrequent activity and it’s very hard to engage people three months after their trip. The frequency of the need is very low, so it’s hard to build a social network and it’s hard to build a vibrant experience,” he said. “So our difference is really this daily entertainment, people come back to Trover just to take an entertainment, world-wisdom building at the bus stop, it’s much more like reading National Geographic than planning a trip,” Karas added.
With the addition of the desktop experience to enhance the ways in which users can engage with the platform, Karas said the mobile apps are now a way for users to add their local photos and activities, while the desktop app is more about exploration. By creating that full-circle experience for users, the company hopes to boost the engagement and activity level of existing and new users, by giving them the feeling of creating quality content through their phone which can then be more thoroughly enjoyed on their computer. Whether they can keep users engaged on a daily basis, when other apps like Instagram often provide a glimpse into global snapshots, while also monetizes remains to be seen.