Dopplr, which I briefly mentioned making an appearance at O'Reilly's Where 2.0 conference back in late May, has opened up its doors today after being in private beta for the last seven months. The service is designed to let friends and other small groups share their travel plans with one another. In an ideal world, if all your friends used Dopplr, you'd be able to see when they're in town, or elsewhere to coordinate things like meet-ups or shared accommodations.
To get going with Dopplr, you simply need to plug in the dates and location of your next vacation or business trip. This information gets slotted onto your profile as a Dopplr trip, and assuming you've made friends on the service, they'll be allowed to see your schedule and visa versa. In order to add your buddies, you can invite them one at a time, or make use of your contact list from Gmail, Flickr, Twitter, or with an HCard microformat import.
Like Facebook's news feed, Dopplr keeps a running tab on your activity and that of your friends, so you can view it in one big stream. For those not inclined to check on the site every day, Dopplr is set up by default to send you weekly newsletters with your friends' latest trip additions and journal entries, along with a list of other Dopplr users who are visiting your home city. There's also a mobile version that gives you quick access to your slated trips, as well as the option to add a new one. In many ways, it's similar to the iPhone version of Google Calendar, albeit with a little less panache.
In many ways Dopplr attempts to solve a problem that could be managed with existing solutions given a little elbow grease on the part of users. For example, my family uses Google calendar, and we've got a separate calendar set up just for trips we want to share with one another. What sets Dopplr apart is its social side, which has a number of small conveniences thrown in for both privacy and keeping track of others. One of them is frequency, which shows you which of your friends visits a place the most. You can also see if you're visiting any of your friend's hometowns, and if they'll be there when you are--which can help you avoid those "oh no, we were in the same place and didn't meet up?" moments.
The creators of Dopplr seem very excited about the service's simplicity, which reminds me a lot of Delicious and Flickr. That being said, it may come across as a little too simple for the business crowd, which the service says it's aiming to please. For example, there's no way to view a log of past trips besides hawking the RSS feed, and the calendar view to see when other users will be out of town uses a very neat-looking nebulous month view, although you actually have to click on each trip to see the specific dates. Competitor Pairup (which we briefly looked at during its DEMO launch in January) attempts to accomplish a similar feat, although it's focused purely on business contacts.
I expect this service to do well if only for its underground appeal. It's got the same vibe as Twitter had early on, and I think people are more than happy to plug in a few form fields every time they've got a flight or road trip planned. The service has also got a dead simple Facebook app that lets you view and share travel plans like you would any other piece of profile information on the service.