You don’t realize how much today’s hotel booking sites look like they’re from the 90’s until you check out Tripbirds‘ new relaunch. The social travel site went dark in the middle of June and has now re-opened as a fairly straightforward hotel booking site, but one that adds many more social features and is designed nice enough to get emotionally attached to.

The re-launch won’t blow your mind with crazy new concepts, but they’re launching agilely and listening to their customers to see what type of social and booking features their users are looking for. That’s probably the biggest game changer in this scene, because how much has Hotels.com or Orbitz changed since you first started using it?

Like they did before, Tripbirds encourages you to sign in through Facebook or Twitter, so you can see where your friends have been. It turns out a couple of my friends have checked into hotels in Stockholm, and the service provides easy access to message them to find out more about their stay.

Another nice social feature is the addition of Instagram photos tagged on location. The hotel’s official photos can also be viewed if they’re available, but the Instagram feed is a nice addition.

“What I think is interesting about that is that you don’t take an Instagram photo to write a good or bad hotel review, but you take an Instagram photo to capture a moment really,” Says Martina Elm of Tripbirds. “That gives you and idea of what kind of atmosphere it is at the hotel, as well as what kind of crowd is hanging out there. It’s a richer picture.”

Tripbirds’ work is gorgeous, but I’m disappointed that they felt their first iteration didn’t work out for them. We covered their launch last March, where their concept allowed you to pick out a city you’re traveling to, and then ask your friends for recommendations. They could then quickly pull up their checkins from Facebook and Foursquare to click away and send some recommendations.

I was so smitten with the concept that I wondered if they finally nailed the “social travel” space that so many have tried. While I still feel that the idea has wings, realistically many people don’t checkin places abroad because of data roaming costs, and its a bummer to always find WiFi. Until data roaming costs go down (or disappear) I imagine the timing just wasn’t right for them. Also, their whole monetization scheme back then was leading people to buy hotel rooms, so they might as well have put it front and center.

But the addition of Instagram photos and social features feels so obvious to today’s jet setters, that you realize the hotel booking site you’ve used for years is a dinosaur. Steve Huffman, the co-founder of Reddit and Hipmunk, spoke about how slow the booking space moves at last year’s Arctic15, so even though there are giants in the area, there is still much room for improvement.

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