This is seriously inside baseball, but I had to share just to express my sadness and frustration. I used ITA Software‘s “Matrix 1” on Saturday. On Sunday it forwarded to their ‘new’ site, Matrix1 appears to be dead.
Most of you are asking, what in the world does that mean?
ITA Software is a company that handles the back end programming behind searching for airfare for several websites, both third party (like Orbitz) and airline sites. They search flights and pair those flights with fares, and the tools are really powerful although the most powerful search features aren’t offered on the consumer versions of their sites — since when you’re actually selling airfare you don’t want to offer complicated you want to offer simple, even though complicated can be more powerful.
ITA, which was purchased by Google, had a demonstration site online. They used it as a sales tool to show what they’re capable of, and it was available online for free use by consumers.
They don’t sell tickets, but they allow powerful searching. Find your flights on the ITA Matrix and then search for those flights segment by segment elsewhere for purchase.
The original ITA matrix was replaced by a more ‘modern’ interface, but was kept online and dubbed “Matrix 1.” ITA Software thinks the newer version is better, I disagreed, and I continued to use Matrix 1 rather than switching to the newer site.
The newer site:
- Auto-completes airport names, which slows down the site
- Doesn’t offer “weekend search” which was a powerful feature of the original site for coming up with the best time to take a weekend away at the lowest price
In fairness, the website says it offers an interactive calendar though I’ve never found it.
I did understand the old Matrix 1 would go away eventually. They stopped developing for it and didn’t want to invest in maintaining it. I just didn’t expect it to disappear over the weekend, and be left only with the new interface.
Interestingly, this weekend may have pointed me towards a change in my own online search and booking behavior. I found some flights I wanted on the old Matrix1 website. It was a very tight schedule, and one of the flights I needed was sold out in coach. ITA could put together some codeshares to get price down from $1100 to $500, but I couldn’t combine flights myself anywhere else — not on individual airline sites, not on Expedia, not on Orbitz.
Just as ITA was able to find the combination, so was Hipmunk, Hipmunk now offers similar functionality to ITA Software to specify expert flight parameters and specific flights. And once Hipmunk finds the flights, it’ll take you directly to those flights on a partner booking engine. So while I couldn’t make Orbitz find the flights myself, Hipmunk could. And so tickets were issued.
One step backwards for ITA Software, one incremental reason why it may be overtaken by Hipmunk from a consumer point of view, one less reason to have anti-trust concerns now that Google owns ITA.