Social Network Dopplr Connects You When You Travel

Dopplr logoStill in beta, Dopplr is a very interesting take on connecting travelers through the power of social networking.

How often have you thought to yourself, “I’m going to <insert random conference/city/event here> next week. I wonder who else I know is going.” At this point, there’s invariably a chain of ill-timed emails, inevitably missing someone who is actually going to be in the same place as you at the same time. Dopplr aims to resolve this issue through providing a way for those serendipitous moments to be under your control, rather than left to random chance.

After signing up for Dopplr, you enter your upcoming travels, building a list of your movements. As you add connections with people you know, Dopplr comes into its own, letting you, and your connections, know when you will be in the same place at the same time.

As you can see from the image above, I have an upcoming trip to Sydney where two of my friends will also be there, and a part of my US holiday in October sees me in San Francisco with another two folks.

The Dopplr permission model is interesting, being completely invitation-based. You have to explicitly invite other travelers to see and interact with your information and they need to invite you to see theirs in return. They intend to keep it this way, as they see travel plans and location as a private matter to be shared only when a user wants to. It also means that for most users, joining Dopplr will mean joining an existing network of people you already know. That’s a little different to most social networks and certainly rich in the connectedness that social networks rely on.

Dopplr hooks into the growing Microformats movement. Any URL you supply to Dopplr with the hCalendar format embedded will be added to your calendar of travels. So, you can enter the URL of an event at Upcoming and have that event in your Dopplr travels. I imagine it will only be a matter of time before you’ll be able to let Dopplr know about your “all my events” feed from somewhere like Upcoming and it will consume and display all those events automatically.

Dopplr also allows you to leverage the power of your travels is by providing iCal and Atom feeds of your listed trips. These two formats allow subscription by most of the calendar tools web workers use.

The Dopplr crew have many features in the pipeline – an API to allow mashups with other services (you can see a proof of concept here) and a full text message interface as well as IM and email. Perhaps most interesting is Dopplr’s intention to implement tools to measure the greenhouse impact of your travels and to allow you to purchase carbon credits against your travels. Even you can be carbon neutral!

You can follow Dopplr’s progress at their blog and they are currently taking signups for the beta program.