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Travelers' wanderlust fuels social-networking site

Finding guidebooks to be out-of-date, pair launches site to hook up travelers eager to swap suggestions.

Sam Rogoway and Emily Dahlberg were vacationing in the Caribbean surrounded by sandy beaches and sparkling blue oceans. Unfortunately, the locations their guidebook suggested weren't quite so picturesque.

When the book directed the couple to a far-from-hopping bar, it was the last straw. Irritated by the obsolete information of another out-of-touch guidebook, they set out to find a better way to travel.

And Tripmates was born.

The beta Web site, which launched Aug. 1, relies on the online social-networking model to connect travelers eager to swap information and even find travel buddies. Unlike MySpace or Facebook, which were created to connect people around a broader nexus of general networking, Tripmates is designed with a very specific demographic in mind.

Sam Rogoway and Emily Dahlberg
Emily Dahlberg and Sam Rogoway

"We aren't trying to be the next MySpace, but we are trying to be the social network for everything travel-related," Rogoway said.

To create the site, the engaged couple abandoned their glamorous Hollywood jobs--Rogoway's as an entertainment attorney and Dahlberg's at a public-relations company--for the often unpredictable world of technology.

Tripmates currently has about 1,500 registered users.

While the site's travel focus may be new to the Web 2.0 social-networking scene, many of its features are not. Tripmates lets people create profiles, showcasing their personal details, which are dubbed "the essentials." This information includes name, age, relationship status, location and occupation. The "excess baggage" section reveals users' favorite and dream destinations, which vary from local states to foreign countries.

Other features of the site include trip blogs, reviews of restaurants and offbeat destinations, photo albums and forums. Site members, who can join for free, can keep trip logs, share details of upcoming trips and even use a "trip tracks" section, which allows globetrotters to input their favorite travel songs. Tripmates also has the equivalent of the "friends" feature from other social-networking sites, where you can view the profiles of other users and comment on their photos, profiles and blogs.

Members can even register to be a "trip guru" for a specific city, becoming the resident expert by fielding questions and making suggestions for hot spots.

Another aspect of the site is the Tripvite feature, "an Evite-type feature, but for travel," according to Rogoway. "We built a really simple, easy-to-use interface that allows you to share the details of a group trip with friends. Then you can keep track of who's coming, easily update the details of the trip, and all your friends are instantly notified."

Prior to embarking on their Tripmates odyssey, the pair had virtually no experience working with electronic media. "This was a first for both of us," said Dahlberg. But Rogoway ultimately sees that perspective as a plus. "It's really simple to use and nice to look at," he said. "Not coming from a tech background has made the site really user-friendly."

In an age of social-networking mania, Rogoway offers insight into why he sees Tripmates as different from other travel sites. "What really makes us special is the interactive capability and the ease to find people to either travel with or seek advice from," he said. "It would have been much easier traveling a couple years ago if we had a site like this."