Travel search engines have been around a good long while. I have a clear memory of using Travelocity at least 10 years ago. The ability to look across carriers for a fare (as well as a route and time) that works for you is really powerful. But these engines do specific crawls of content and provide it to you. It's a glimpse into the now.

What Farecast does is give you a look into the "to be." They're taking all the data that's available to them and using it to its (and our) advantage. This novel use of data to generate a higher-level of understanding and a deeper value is truly amazing.

There certainly are precedents. The Amazon book recommendation engine is probably the earliest, in which data are analyzed on the backend to provide a more compelling front end experience. Farecast seems to take things a giant step further, using data analysis not to upsell, but to provide consumers with deeper understanding of the world in which they operate.

All the vertical search players should take a long look at what Farecast has done and ask themselves a simple question: "what could we do with what we know to make the consumer's experience way freakin' better?"

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