What if Zillow and Trulia closed shop tomorrow?

I have had lots of conversations lately centered on
handicapping the field of new web 2.0 companies in real estate. Will Trulia
trump Zillow? Which neighborhood site will get it right? Does Redfin or
Estately have the best search interface?

I’ve come to the conclusion that this debate is largely
academic. Some of these companies will change the real estate experience. Many
will fail. But ultimately, what happens with any of them is epiphenomenal. Platforms
and people are the real drivers of web 2.0 in real estate, not companies.

It wasn’t so during the “dot-com” boom of 1997-2000. Then,
companies came on the scene, went out of business, and took their innovations
with them. We entered the Dark Ages of online real estate.

Innovation had been compartmentalized and exclusive. It is
now diffuse and accessible. Agents are leveraging the blog platform and RSS
standard to redefine real estate marketing. They’re creating their own mashups,
crunching their own data and building new models for client engagement.

The innovation we are witnessing now is thus more durable.
It’s deeply and widely rooted and won’t wax or wane with the fortunes of a
few dozen startups.

My guess is the companies that will thrive in this
environment will be those that make their applications as flexible, portable
and open as possible. But I don’t pretend to know exactly which will be around
next year, or the year after that.

One thing is certain,
though: online innovation in real estate is no longer dependent on the answer.

— Brian Boero