Weaving a tangled web
Brian Larson posted a detailed conclusion to his IDX series the other day, concluding that he’d recommend the NAR modify the IDX policy to:
- Define what we mean by ‘web search engine,’ identify the benign uses they make of listing data, and incorporate those descriptions into the rules.
- Say that broker IDX sites may allow and even encourage indexing by web search engines.
- If brokers are particularly miffed by the “Nancy Smith” example, MLSs can prohibit display of listing agent in IDX (as long as state law does not require it).
- Educate all brokers about how site indexing works and about technology options to allow them to take advantage of it.
- Develop a good model TOU and invite the MLSs to promulgate it to brokers; two key terms would make MLS a third-party beneficiary and would allow ‘web search engine’ use but not any other commercial use of the listing data.
Yesterday, Rob Hahn followed up on Brian’s post with “Great Expectations, or On the Purpose of IDX“, in which he makes at least two key points:
- Purpose of IDX. Rob agrees with Brian that defining the purpose of IDX is critical: “Without this purpose statement, one could reasonably claim that the purpose of IDX is to benefit sellers as much as possible, or that IDX is meant to empower agents to be more competitive, or whatever.”
- The Game is Over for IDX. Rob makes the case that big brokers no longer benefit from IDX in the world of Google dominance, and speculates that the next model might be for big brokers to pull out of IDX, build great VOWs for themselves, and then encourage their MLS to build a great public web site to drive traffic to their VOWs.
I have a couple of comments in response to these ideas from Rob and the IDX issue in general:
- VOWs. As I posted a few weeks ago, establishment of VOWs as required by the DOJ/NAR settlement raise questions about MLS IDX policies. On the one hand, many brokers and MLSs filled the vacuum created by the NAR/DOJ litigation by expanding IDX to include lots of data, including sold information. In other words, IDX data feeds in these MLSs look a lot like VOW feeds. On the other hand, some MLSs, like MIBOR, continue to have a restricted view of IDX and want to keep it off the web at least in terms of indexing by search engines. The distinction between these views seems to be squarely in front of the NAR MLS Policy Committee for investigation and possible decision this fall as a result of the IDX/scraping issue raised by MIBOR this last spring.
- Re-thinking IDX. The open nature of the web (IDX) and the closed nature of VOWs raises the question as to whether the current IDX policies of MLSs recognize these differences. I’m hopeful that Rob’s idea about IDX going away in favor of VOWs is a stretch too far, because, as mentioned above, IDX is a vibrant part of so many franchise, broker and agent strategies today. At the same time, the industry needs to recognize the reality of VOWs and how they interplay with IDX.
I’m heading off to San Francisco tomorrow for the Inman Connect conference, where the issue of VOWs will be front and center for the panel called “From Listing Data to People Data: The Next Challenge in VOWs and MLS Consumer Sites.” Join me there for the continuing discussion or leave a comment below.