Technology

FBS to launch real estate's first true app store, MLS API

Author
Brian Boero
No.
686
Please excuse the mess. This page is currently under construction.

Last year, I advocated for something I called the “Data Socket” – a single source for MLS data into which developers could plug to create more and better software products for brokers and agents.

Turns out that while I was talking about it, the team at FBS, a leading MLS software provider, we’re planning to build it.

And today, they’ve announced its alpha release. It’s called the Spark Platform, and it’s a very big deal.

To bottom-line it, this platform has the potential to:

  • Produce an explosion of better software for brokers and agents
  • Make innovating within the boundaries of MLS rules dramatically easier
  • Create significant new revenue for MLSs

There are three pieces to this puzzle:

The Spark API

This is a single API for standardized MLS data. This alone is huge, because right now anyone wanting to release software tied to MLS data (an IDX solution, say) has to machete their way through 850 MLS systems one-by-one.

This stifles innovation in a big way. Brokers and agents are left with too few software options; developers put more time into navigating the MLS maze than improving their products; millions are wasted on cocktail receptions and steak dinners.

In the meantime, those outside the industry, who secure data without going through the MLS system, have more latitude to innovate than those who own the data.

Crazy.

The Spark API means a developer can light up hundreds of markets at once. At launch (this September) FBS will have 120 MLSs representing 200,000 agents on board. I suspect more will follow.

MLSs will be able to impose their own terms of use. They’ll be reflected in the API and presented to the end user. FBS can do this because they power many MLSs and know how to pull this off. It suffices to say that this is no small task.

The Spark Store

The platform will make building real estate software easier, but it also includes a compelling distribution channel for developers – the Spark Store.

As my headline states, this will be real estate’s first true app store. Developers – whether they use the Spark API or not – can place their app in the store, which can be integrated with MLS systems and brokerage intranets. Developers give up 30% off the top, which is split between FBS and the MLS (I’d like to see the brokerage cut into this as well).

Ordering, payment and fulfillment are handled through the store. This is no ersatz app store that functions like a simple directory – it’s the real deal.

The Spark Bar

The Spark Bar extends the reach of this app store. It can be added to any MLS system or brokerage intranet by copying and pasting a bit of javascript. It looks like a lighter option for those that don’t want to host the full store.

Users can purchase new apps through the bar, login to those they’ve already bought using single sign-on, and receive app notifications from developers.

Questions

As you can tell by now, I like what the FBS team has done. But there are questions:

Will the developers come out of the woodwork?

Will MLSs not running Flex MLS, FBS’s core MLS software product, participate?

Will brokers be on board without getting a piece of the action?

Will local variations in data rules, even if baked into a single API, still prove too knotty?

We’ll see. But right now I’m optimistic.

Kudos to Mike Wurzer and team for making a big, needed, and very important move.