by James A. Martin

Free iPad App Turns Facebook Friends into Tour Guides

Apr 23, 20122 mins

The new social-travel app Jetpac uses photos from your Facebook friends to help you decide where to travel next. And as a bonus, the app could also cause you to brush up on your photography skills.

I didn’t know my friend Ross caught a piranha in Brazil until I started using Jetpac.

The new iPad app turns your Facebook friends’ photos into full-screen travel slideshows. The app (current version 0.0.8) is simple in its approach. Download and open the app, give it your Facebook sign-in info, and right away, you see travel photos from your FB buddies. Selected photos from other Facebook users are organized in a “Hot 100 Cities” slideshow, as well.

You can pause slideshows at any time with a screen tap. And if you love a particular photo you can tap the “Love” button to show your affection. Been there done that? Touch the “Been There” button. See someplace to add to your bucket list? Hit the “I Want to Go” button.

Each time you tap one of these buttons, the app creates another new slideshow. For instance, if you tap “I Want to Go” on one friend’s photo of Portugal, all your friends’ photos from that country are added to the “I Want to Go” slideshow.

Jetpac is a great idea, and it’s beautifully executed. Interestingly, the app’s developers didn’t rely entirely on geotagged Facebook photos; The company developed an algorithm to determine location on non-geotagged images using additional information, where available, including photo-album names.

Unfortunately, this sometimes creates “false positives.” Among the roughly 4,000 photos Jetpac collected from my Facebook connections were dozens taken from a friend’s Thanksgiving Day volunteer efforts, in which she served turkey at a community shelter. All of those photos were tagged in Jetpac as coming from, you guessed it: Turkey.

Jetpac is revelatory in several ways. Who knew that all those travel photos my friends posted, most of which I’d never even seen, could be so inspiring?

I also learned more about my friends; I had no idea Carrie Beth had been to a bar made out of ice in New Zealand, for example.

Finally, seeing my friends’ vacation photos, one after the other, made me aspire to improve my own travel photography. Translation: It’s time to start planning my next vacation. Brazil is looking pretty good right now—except for that piranha.