International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Facebook's 18-month-old "Like" button has become a wildly popular method of gauging popular opinion about all sorts of things: your thoughts, life events, vacation photos and more. It was only a matter of time before Internet start-ups found creative new uses for the "Like" button, some of which turned out to be quite useful for travel inspiration, too.
Since 2010, many image-bookmarking sites have debuted -- The Fancy, FFFFound!, Pinterest and Svpply are the most prominent -- each aspiring to become "the Facebook of stuff”. Online scrapbooking is the name of the game: users can copy images of items they see while surfing the web -- be it luggage, clothing or photos of a hotel pool -- and save them to a personal profile with the click of a button. The Fancy, FFFFound, Pinterest and Svpply aren't primarily about travel, but travellers can use these sites to collect trip-planning images, such as photos of destinations and images of travel gear, and they can look at other users' images for vacation inspiration.
Pinterest, a year-old website based in California, seems to be the fastest growing site of the bunch. Pinterest wins points for its layout and organisation, allowing users to upload visually appealing pictures and content (such as advertisements or images of magazine covers) to "pinboards".
Pinterest makes the process straightforward. With a quick, one-time set-up, you add a button called a bookmarklet to your favourite web browser. Then, any time you see an image you like anywhere on the web, you click the bookmarklet and your browser will add the image to your Pinterest page -- without interrupting what you're doing. Next time you visit Pinterest, you'll see the image stored there. And in the meantime, your friends will see what you found, too. For example, all of my travel-related finds can be followed by friends and the public on one page.
To use Pinterest for wanderlust purposes, search for the category "places and spaces". Find images you like and the site will suggest related ones. If you like the selection of destinations or travel gear that another Pinterest user tends to find, you can follow their stream of Places-related picks, without having to see the images of their other interests that aren't travel related. Like Facebook's news feed page, you'll see relevant content on Pinterest based on your past decisions.
The site I found most useful for trip-inspiration is The Fancy, which has the largest proportion of travel-related content of the bunch, by my unscientific estimation. You can search on general terms like "travel" or on specific places, such as "Tokyo". But it's better to just scroll through the images you see and click on a travel-related photo that intrigues you. When you do, you'll see what the photo is about, plus relevant or related images from other people. Before you know it, you'll have surfed into surprising locations.
Via my Fancy page, I recently discovered some gorgeous places I hadn't heard of before. For instance, I recently came across an image of a beautiful harbour-side town of pastel-coloured houses framed against a dramatic backdrop of olive-groved mountains. I clicked to discover that it was a photo of the fishing village of Camogli, Italy, on the coast of Liguria, about 15 miles from Genoa -- a town that is now attracting a sophisticated set of Europeans who are setting up second homes.
A few clicks later and online scrapbooking may have lead to my next holiday destination.
Sean O'Neill is the tech travel columnist for BBC Travel