There is no Web 2.0 bubble – and real estate technology ain't what it used to be

Back in 2000, the online real estate category flamed out with the rest of the “dot-com” universe. It was five cold years before innovation flowered once more.

That will never happen again.

Yes, there are plenty of failed Web 2.0 companies, thousands of silly apps. Many more are on the way. But there is no “Web 2.0 bubble” — just a constant fizz of development, trial, error and, once in a while, breakthrough success.

This is enabled, and will be sustained, by dramatically lowered barriers confronting technology innovators. One can get a product to market cheaper and more quickly than before. Distribution is cheaper. Hosting is cheaper. The web is a more open and fluid environment.

A corollary of this reality is that the dividing line between “real estate technology” and the rest of the technology world is fading fast. Back in 1999 there were hundreds of real estate technology companies and applications – everything from website platforms to transaction management suites – tailored to something often characterized as “The unique needs of brokers and agents.”

Today, those inside the industry are often better served by bypassing real estate specific vendors and applications to pick form the burgeoning flower bed of platforms, APIs and apps from outside the category.

Here are a few examples, plucked from just the past week of technology news:

  • Google announced a new “What’s here?” feature in Google Maps. It gives the user – a home buyer, for example – a peripheral view around a point on a map. It’s available through the Google Maps API.
  • launched “ for publishers,” which allows website owners (e.g., a real estate brokerage, agent, or listings site) to integrate neighborhood level news, blog posts and tweets with their own content. This is a compelling addition to a listings detail page for a couple reasons: It’s fresh (indeed, in some cases, real time) and provides the user with a sense for the ambient noise of a place, the stuff charts and graphs can’t render.
  • YouTube upgraded it channel designs and layout. Until now, creating a YouTube channel made sense for a lot of reasons – but a creating a cohesive brand experience was not one of them. Even large brand efforts like the (prematurely) celebrated Coldwell Banker channel have been limited by a kludgy interface. That’s no longer the case.
  • BookFresh launched today. It’s an appointment-gathering application built primarily for small businesses: Plumbers, massage therapists, accountants … and Realtors. It’s slick, robust and represents a compelling alternative to real estate showing applications.

Of course, all these things are free or darn close to free.