It means a lot of money for Google.
It's April, 2012, and you've decided you want to go tour Mayan ruins during November and December. How do you go about planning it? Travel agents are expensive, but piecing together an involved vacation is a time-consuming endeavor. Thankfully, it's the near-future. And Google has your back. You type,
"All-inclusive Mayan vacations, $1000", and suddenly a list of vacation packages, flight times and panels of booking information populate your search results. A click or two later (thanks, Google check-out!) and your whole vacation is taken care of. This is the dream behind Google's acquisition of ITA Software. And that dream is one step closer to reality, thanks to the Department of Justice.
The Google Blog has just announced that the buyout of ITA met with regulatory approval. The DOJ attached a number of caveats to the $700 million deal, but Google appears willing to acquiesce on all points. To avoid the FTC's trust-busting wrath, Google must continue to develop ITA's software, as well as license it for use to competing travel sites.
Interestingly, Google will also be required to create a separate sort of internal firewall to keep data pulled from ITA customers from adding to the vast data-pile Google maintains for their other services. Again, the wording of Google's response makes it fairly clear that they have no issue with these restrictions. The search giant intends to settle the deal "as soon as possible".
This deal opens up the potential of an incredible new revenue stream for Google. One analyst (with Barclays Capital) expects Google to charge travel sites on a cost-per-action basis. They would earn a higher fee from the site when a booking was made.
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Air travel, especially international air travel, is dauntingly complex for a novice jet-setter. If Google can lower that barrier to entry, they'll be prying money out of the hands of travel agents and throwing it directly at travel sites and airlines. And you can bet a fair chunk of that money will end up sticking to Google's hands.