Zillow.com has formed a technical advisory board to provide independent advice on improving the technology and algorithms that support the company’s online services for real estate consumers, the company said Monday.
Zillow launched its beta site in February, offering consumers free information and valuations on more than 60 million homes in the United States.
The company’s entrance into real estate has been all but quiet as industry observers speculated over the last year what services Zillow would offer. Zillow’s founding team has deep roots in e-commerce, including Expedia founder and former CEO Rich Barton and former Expedia Senior Vice President Lloyd Frink.
The first members of Zillow’s technical advisory board announced this week are three leading computer scientists – Oren Etzioni, Hank Levy and Hanan Samet – whose combined accomplishments include research and practical developments in data mining, Internet search, distributed operating systems and spatial databases/geographic information systems (GIS). Advances in all of these areas will play an important role in Zillow’s technology as the company develops additional features and services for its consumers, according to a company statement.
“We’re tackling some very difficult technical problems, and we’re very lucky to be able to tap the expertise of some of the brightest minds in computer science today to help us do it,” said David Beitel, Zillow’s chief technology officer. “Working with them, we will ensure we’re planning and building our site and our software in an intelligent way.”
The advisory board members will meet with Beitel and his technical staff at Zillow’s offices to discuss current technology trends and developments, and how they might contribute to the site’s development, the company said.
“It’s great to be able to put our technical and business world experiences together and provide advice to a company as exciting as Zillow,” Levy said. “It’s the kind of challenge we all enjoy, and we hope our insight will help Zillow’s talented engineers reach buyers and sellers of homes with cutting-edge technology and information.”
Etzioni is a professor of computer science at the University of Washington in Seattle, the director of the university’s Turing Center, the founder of three startups, and a venture partner at the Madrona Venture Group.
Levy is professor and Wissner-Slivka Chair of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. Levy’s research involves operating systems, computer architecture, distributed computing, and the Web.
Samet is a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland and is a member of the Computer Vision Laboratory where he leads research projects on image databases and on the use of hierarchical data structures for geographic information systems (GIS), spatial databases, computer graphics, and image processing.
Based in Seattle, Zillow raised about $32 million prior to launch. The company has an advertising-based business model that features banner ads and a display of Google AdSense ads alongside its home data results.
Zillow officials have said the company does not plan to serve as an agent in real estate transactions, though in looking for ways to improve data quality the company has explored becoming a broker in multiple states, “as regulations and data availability vary by state and we think this could help,” a company official told Inman News.
Zillow ranked fifth among real estate sites in the number of unique visitors in February 2006, according to comScore Media Metrix.