NEW ORLEANS — Web 2.0 may be less about technology and more about attitude, said Errol Samuelson, president of Top Producer Systems and senior vice president of the software group for National Association of Realtors-affiliated Move Inc.
Samuelson, who spoke during a “Web 2.0 and Mashups” presentation Sunday at a National Association of Realtors conference, also said that new technology typically takes about 20 years “to become an overnight success,” citing the example of the dot-com boom, bubble, burst and resurgence.
Panelists during the session attempted to define the concept of Web 2.0 and to explain how this second-generation of Internet technologies could be relevant for the real estate industry.
Web 2.0 sites allow consumers to be participants in Web sites rather than just members of the Web audience, Samuelson explained.
Web 2.0 can also be used as an all-encompassing buzzword for new technology, though Web 2.0 sites are not necessarily Realtor-friendly, said Mark Lesswing, director of the National Association of Realtors Center for Realtor Technology and chief technology officer and senior vice president for the Realtor group.
Web 2.0 is “a movement” that exploits the capability of the Internet, Lesswing said. Web 2.0 startups have received funding from some big companies, and can be deployed quickly and cheaply.
“It’s possible to build products that stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said, explaining that Web 2.0 sites can build upon pre-existing tools and data that are already available online.
He cited some examples of Web 2.0 sites, including Propsmart.com, Zillow.com, StreetEasy.com and Trulia.com, among others.
If the “fashion season” of Web 2.0 takes over, Lesswing said he expects costly, monolithic technological ventures in real estate to die off.
He also said he doesn’t expect the extravagant “make money to lose money” mentality of the dot-com days to take hold again with the Web 2.0 wave, as this new generation of innovators can have a “radically low cost of entry.”
The real estate industry, he said, should evaluate Web 2.0 technologies to determine whether they are a good fit, though he cautioned that companies should be “careful of getting caught up in the hype.” Lesswing said Web 2.0 sites tend to incorporate “mashups,” which unify a combination of Web resources to produce a new tool or application, citing the example of sites that combine property listings data with mapping tools.
Many Web 2.0 sites incorporate user content such as rating, voting and tagging to make the content more relevant to other site users — and these sites seek to achieve a sort of “collective intelligence,” Samuelson said.
Sites that allow video-sharing, photo-sharing and even user-generated encyclopedia entries are a part of the Web 2.0 revolution, he said. Samuelson also demonstrated the capabilities of a tool offered by Move Inc. called Top Marketer, which incorporates some Web 2.0 features in providing real-time market information to consumers. Move Inc. is also launching a national blog at the HomeInsight.com site that aggregates blog postings from hundreds of agents into a single, searchable blog.
Consumer demands, in part, are driving Web 2.0 technologies, he said.
Paul Rademacher, a pioneering mashup maker who was hired by Google, said mashups can create a new value for consumers by combining preexisting tools in innovative ways.
He also promoted another Web 2.0 movement to incorporate tiny, focused utilities called “gadgets” or “widgets” in Web sites or on the desktop screen of computers. These utilities are like a “mini Web page,” he said, that carry out specific functions such as displaying automatically updated news stories or weather reports.
The line between Web applications and desktop applications will likely blur in the coming years, Rademacher said, and he also said that he expects that Google’s virtual three-dimensional mapping platform, Google Earth, will become more robust and would “look much like today’s video games with 3-D cities, trees, etc.” Google is one of several companies that offer guidance to programmers who seek to build new tools that incorporate those companies existing tools.
An audience member asked how companies such as Google make money by offering up its mapping tools, including Google Earth and Google Maps, to serve as a launch pad for other companies’ new technologies and mashups.
Samuelson said that “media model” companies such as Google seek to reach the largest possible audience of consumers in order to increase advertising revenue.
And Rademacher said that a key to Google’s success is in designing tools based on user preferences. “It is really just about the user,” he said.