Friday Flash: Zillow/Yahoo!, visual search and syndication hand-wringing

The Zillow/Yahoo partnership announced last July went live. Zillow now supplies the listings for Yahoo! Real Estate and sells the ads. Yahoo! effectively punted. No doubt, this is a big deal that extends Zillow’s reach significantly. It will be interesting to see whether that broader reach will translate into significantly more viable leads to agent and broker advertisers.

I am also feeling just a little bummed that Yahoo! – perhaps the most screwed up company in the online world right now – should be such a “big deal” in real estate. But hey, I guess I should be used to real estate’s rather unexalted profile!

In the Real Estate Software that Doesn’t Suck category… FBS Data Systems, an MLS software provider, released an IDX plugin for WordPress and an API for developers capable of implementing a more custom solution for clients. It’s pretty slick. I’d like to see more IDX providers – a group notorious for challenging user interface design – follow suit.

ReadWriteWeb reported on a soon-to-launch start up called Omniar that’s set to release a new “visual search” technology that may be relevant in real estate. In fact, real estate is one of the use cases they tease in their demo video. While Augmented Reality may have received more buzz than it deserved in 2009 and 2010, and the meaningful use cases for QR codes remain opaque, this lights up some more concrete possibilities.

John Heithaus, Chief Marketing Officer at MRIS, the nation’s largest MLS, wrote a provocative piece wherein he asks the real estate industry to consider emerging from carbon freeze to come to grips with the fact that its listing data is strewn about the web like birdseed at the city park. This is an old battle – one that waxes and wanes but never ends. I’d like to see a climactic charge myself.

Any Realtor with a Twitter account should absorb fully the lesson imparted by the Kenneth Cole Egypt tweet fiasco. I still see too many “Just back from Panda Express, now eating a pint of ice cream – LOL!” tweets from real estate professionals. Please, for the love of all that is sacred about housing, think before you publish!

A great read from the Harvard Business Review blog this week – The new calculus of competition. The money quote “Does your latest, greatest snoozer of a product (service, business, experience) actually make people happier? (Really? Can you prove it?)”. I’ve thought for a while that the online real estate experience has become thoroughly joyless. Can you think of an online real estate site that’s fun to use? That makes you happy? This is something we’re going to be working on this year.

Enjoy the weekend!