The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) today reports that Kayak has acquired its competitor Sidestep. Kayak says that “the merger will make it the fifth-largest travel site in search volume”. The WSJ notes that both “Kayak and SideStep are meta travel sites that search hundreds of travel Web sites, including airlines, hotels and sites like Orbitz.com. Kayak says there is less than 10% overlap among Kayak and SideStep users. SideStep will become a subsidiary of Kayak, but Kayak will maintain and develop each site separately”. Meta sites like Kayak and Sidestep do not actually crawl the web but, as the article notes, rely on other search engines, principally in the travel sector, to display results.
Kayak’s CEO Steve Hafner is quoted as saying that “by combining content and technology, the company will be able to make SideStep’s interface work faster, and Kayak, which has been focused on perfecting the search process, will have access to SideStep travel guides, hotel reviews and downloadable tool bar”. Less enthusiastic at the prospect is Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc who notes that “12% to 15% of online leisure travelers use meta sites, roughly the same share as in 2006”. That’s unfortunate if true, as anyone who has used the two sites must surely have derived more utility than by merely limiting oneself to Orbitz, Expedia or even google; if nothing else, these two sites and others such as Farecompare serve to keep the big third party websites honest.