Monthly Archives: October 2014

Comparing Coverage: Google Maps, GoEuro & Rome2rio Head To Head

Comparison header

Since our launch four years ago we’ve been passionate about making Rome2rio a truly global travel search site. That means having coverage so complete that Rome2rio can help users discover how to get anywhere by any mode of transport rather than how to get most places in countries X, Y and Z by modes of transport A, B and C but only with operators D, E and F.

The way we see it, incomplete coverage is a little like a street directory with a bunch of pages missing. That’s why we’ve gone to great lengths to import as many routes and operators into Rome2rio as possible. We’ve developed web crawlers, data feed importers and manual data entry tools, all managed by our global team of transport researchers. The result is a database covering some 800,000 routes and over 4,700 transport operators.

So, how does our coverage compare to others in this space? How often do we provide usable, relevant multi-modal search results when others don’t? We decided it was time to find out, by benchmarking our service against results from two other prominent sites offering multi-modal results: Google Maps and GoEuro.

The Competition

Although Maps is not yet marketed as a travel product (and generally lacks pricing and booking information) Google have been adding more and more transit feeds, including important inter-city operators such as German Railways and the entire UK network. A tremendously popular product for Google, it’s becoming clear they see these enhancements to Maps as a bridge between the vast search and travel markets.

GoEuro — who recently announced a $27 million investment round — have quickly become a leading player in the European multi-modal space. We like the GoEuro site a lot, especially the crisp, elegant design and slick user experience. This Berlin-based company is growing fast and seems certain to become a favourite with many users in the European market.

The Test Results

The initial test was based on a randomly selected sample of 25 queries from our own search logs. The head to head test results between the three sites are shown below: a green bar indicates the site provided at least one train, bus, ferry or rideshare result; a red bar indicates no result  was shown. A yellow bar indicates a partial score, where only part of the route was covered, or operator information was missing. We excluded flights and driving options as this data is readily available and well covered by all three sites.

coverage-analysis1

Clearly the difference in coverage offered is significant. Rome2rio nailed all the queries in this initial test set, while Google Maps had complete results for 36.6% of the queries, and gave partial information for another 9.8%. GoEuro provided complete coverage for 14.6% of trips in the query set. When the set is restricted to European locations, a fairer measure for GoEuro, their score increases to 16.2%.

Second Round Tests

Recognising that there may be some bias inherent in the initial benchmark—people visiting Rome2rio may have prior knowledge of the site’s coverage and issue queries that are more likely to be correctly answered—we created a second set of queries, this one drawn entirely from TripAdvisor forums. We mined user questions such as “How to get from Athens to Gastouni?“— there are millions of such questions posed on TA, so it was a rich vein. The resulting queries  are quite challenging, as users are more likely to turn to the TA forums when they cannot easily find transport information elsewhere. In this second analysis, we focused only on trains and buses, as neither Google Maps or GoEuro profess to offer rideshare, and GoEuro does not offer ferries.

coverage-analysis2

Rome2rio’s score slipped slightly on this query set, and there was one query (Cortona to Montevarchi) where Google Maps identified an option that Rome2rio missed. GoEuro achieved only 4.8% coverage (and 6.3% for the European subset). Google Maps also struggled with 28.6% coverage. All up, the delta between the three sites was pretty similar for both query sets.

Points Of Difference

In contrast to Google Maps and Rome2rio, GoEuro are tackling multi-modal search using the traditional live API connection model used by OTAs and meta-search sites, and also employed by multi-modal players RouteRANK, FromAtoB and Waymate. This approach provides full pricing and booking information on the initial search. It does, however, limit coverage to operators who offer an API: that’s OK for most rail operators and the larger coach and ferry operators, but not for the vast majority of transport operators worldwide.

This is a key limiting factor, and suggests that GoEuro will be popular as a booking tool for well-known, high-traffic routes within Europe, but less attractive as a general transport search tool or journey planner. That focus seems consistent with their stated goals, and this benchmark result should be seen in that light.

One of the key ingredients for Rome2rio’s comprehensive coverage is our global research team and their manual data collection efforts. In December last year we explained that although manually collected data represented just 2% of routes in the Rome2rio repository, they appear frequently in search results and represent 49% of user clicks. This is largely because our manual content curation is targeted towards important regions and operators. As our repository has grown this breakdown has shifted slightly:

coverage-analysis3

Going forward, we will continue to seek 100% global coverage, but we’ll also begin developing live API connections with transport operators who offer this functionality. Combining those two approaches will allow us to offer the ideal user experience: truly global, door-to-door coverage; lightning fast results; and accurate fares and schedule information for users focused on specific travel dates.

Rome2rio’s Development Team Expands Again

In August this year we wrote about Miles Izzo joining our engineering team, and his experience and ability to tackle some of the pressing problems on our project list. Miles has already shipped several important improvements to the site, including the printable results feature, support for new transport types and performance improvements. We also mentioned we were on the lookout for two additional developers, and we’re pleased to say that search has been successful, with Marco Lui and Alan Lawrey joining our team this month.

Marco recently completed his PhD studies at Melbourne University where he published several papers on text modeling, analytics and classification while teaching classes and entering Kaggle competitions on the side. He is a long time fan of Rome2rio and told us “I always assumed that you were another Bay Area startup”. When he discovered that we were local, and hiring developers, he was quick to apply. Marco’s scientific and research background will be invaluable for many of the challenging data science and analytics related projects we’ve got going.

Alan completed a Computer Science degree at LaTrobe University in 2011 and has been working on back and front end web development at migenius, a Melbourne company that provides ray tracing web solutions. We love that he’s clearly passionate about coding and works on a variety of projects in his free time.

Marco and Alan

Alan and Marco outside the AKM building (home to inspire9 and Rome2rio)

We have been delighted by the success we’ve had over the last couple of months finding experienced, talented developers here in Melbourne. We have employed the same recruiting, interviewing and leveling processes that Bernie and I used at Microsoft and all our hires would certainly pass the bar for hiring at the Redmond tech giant.

Melbourne’s universities continue to produce top quality computer scientists. The absence of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter competing for local talent certainly makes it easier for Melbourne based tech start-ups to stand out as employers and set a high bar for recruiting. We are certainly not the only ones observing this – just yesterday Evernote announced it plans to open an office in Australia to “take advantage of what it considers to be an under-exploited developer and engineering talent pool”.