Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Things get tricky for Fiiki

With so many travel-networking sites out there now, wouldn't it be easier if a single site pooled all the accommodation options into one, easy-to-view list? Need a bed somewhere? Just look for your destination on their drop-down menu and, bingo, every host listed on every hospitality site on the web suddenly appears before your eyes. This is exactly what the folk behind had planned. Unfortunately for them, the travel-networking community wasn't quite so keen.

The aim of Fiiki's portal was to collate information from around 10 different hospitality sites, including, and
The trouble was Fiiki seemed to have ignored members' privacy settings and thus opened up all manner of online copyright issues.

The forums of are now awash with suggestions that the site's creator must have signed up as a member, then proceeded to copy info without permission. Predictably, members are unimpressed. Hospitality sites work by creating a network of trust; if any non-members can find you through Fiiki, it defeats the object.

Fiiki also seriously underestimated the loyalty people have to their travel-networking site of choice. The more you use these sites, the more you realise each has a very different personality. While a member of might welcome likeminded fellow members, they may not be so keen to open up to members of

What erks members even more is the way Fiiki has misrepresented their details. For example, if someone types in New York, a snapshot of a Couchsurfing profile might appear reading: "Contact Belinda, 27, from Brooklyn, for a 100% chance of being hosted". This is totally inaccurate. The % figure displayed on all profiles refers to the response rate to messages. Belinda may be polite enough to respond to 100% of messages, but this does not mean she ALWAYS hosts EVERYONE.

The Fiiki crew also showed their ignorance by including sites such as UK-only StayDon' If they had done their research they would know the site is currently down and works on a very different, token-based system. You can't simply sign up, drop someone an email and turn up on a doorstep. general manager Matthew Brauer has addressed members' concerns on the site's message boards: "I just wanted to let everyone know that CouchSurfing has not endorsed or approved the content on [...] CouchSurfing does have the right to request the removal of member profile information from the Fiiki website, including information from profiles that are set to viewable by non-members. Our legal team is currently looking into it."

Looks like the legal team have made some progress as Fiiki is now out of action. The homepage reads simply: "Due to legal issues we're currently unable to offer our services. Please come back later". Before it went down, I emailed them via their contact us page to ask for more information on the official launch they'd said was "coming soon". So far, no comment. I'm guessing they've got some homework to do first.