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Expedia's Widening Hammock

Rick Aristotle Munarriz
August 20, 2008

At Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE  ) , there‚Äôs more to travel than just online bookings.

The company's popular TripAdvisor website is taking a majority stake in FlipKey, a website that features user reviews on 50,000 vacation rental properties. One could even say that FlipKey is the TripAdvisor of stand-alone vacation homes, although that may not be fair to TripAdvisor, since FlipKey was launched just five months ago. It may also be an unfair comparison to sites like VRBO and, which have been covering vacation rentals for years.

However, the move is indicative of Expedia looking to snuff out -- and cash in on -- a potential threat, by getting to it while it's still in its infancy.

Expedia is no stranger to acquiring travel-community sites. It has now snapped up a dozen niche websites like air-carrier seating configuration specialist and cruise-ship review hub Add up Expedia's collection of mostly Web 2.0-prolific sites, and its TripAdvisor Media Network attracts 24 million monthly visitors.

Expedia is in a league of its own. Rival booking engines like Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW  ) may encourage customer rev