Zillow, Android, iPhone, SMS and the liquid real estate experience

The walls that stand between media, devices, publishers, advertisers and consumers are being wrecked, both inside and outside the online real estate category.

This has been going on for some time now. A restless generation has turned the phone into a device for fragmentary, quick-hit communication. Apple made the Web workable on a mobile device. And now, in the past week, come two deals that further bash the barriers that stand between those who publish information and those who want it, those who advertise and those who buy.

First comes Android. Turns out the Gphone device does not, and will not, exist. It’s an open source platform that will someday run on myriad devices from dozens of manufacturers. As with OpenSocial, Google ignored specific eddies of audience and cast its line into the big current, which will take it in directions yet to be imagined. One thing is certain: more people will access more of the information they want, how they want it, wherever they happen to be. Some of it will be real estate information.

Zillow’s newspaper deal has less world changing potential, but it is nonetheless in the same vein. We hear much about the zero-sum game of old versus new media real estate advertising: Newspapers are in irreversible decline, players like Zillow and Craigslist are ascendant, and classifieds are content. Not so fast. Few believe newspapers will vanish entirely. And most brokerage companies still play both sides of the fence with their ad dollars. This deal, while limited in scope, will thus create efficiencies for brokerage companies and value for consumers.

The biggest takeaway I see here for online real estate is to think liquid. Lift all imaginable barriers to your content, your application, your platform, your value, and let them go wherever users take them. Follow them, don’t expect them to come to you. Make your experience portable. Let it flow. If that means reaching out a timeworn partner like a newspaper, so be it.

The mashups, feeds, Pipes, widgets and smartphones of the past two years are just the beginning. The barriers that bind up information and isolate audiences will continue to crumble. I don’t pretend to know what possibilities that will create, but I look forward to them.

Brian Boero