Now that most of 2010 is done and we’re staring down the barrel of fall and early winter, I figured it might be worthwhile to revisit some of the predictions that I made for Inman News waaaay back in December 2009.

Those end-of-year and beginning-of-year predictions always make a fun read, but I’ve also always been a little peeved by the way they get tossed out and then so often forgotten.

Since I’ve written one, I figure it’s my obligation to do a check-in and see how it went (or didn’t).

My main thrust is in how people are using technology. It’s not enough for new tech or ideas to come to fruition if no one is using it yet. My belief that we are in the early days of a significant change in the way people distribute and consume information is at the heart of many of the predictions I made those many months ago.

Some of the events and data support this, some maybe not so much.

Let’s see how I did.


As I noted in my 2010 predictions article, every year is supposed to be the year of mobile. I talked about how the (then) upcoming launch of Google Android would accelerate that and how Google’s own hardware launch would be a sideshow.

I didn’t note how short-lived a sideshow the Nexus One would be, however.

The real show in mobile has proven to be technologists continuing to build tools that enable people to access meaningful data anywhere. I think the continued "appstorm" is some testament to that.

I followed on Rob Hahn’s coattails in promoting the idea of a difference between rural and urban audiences in the mobile space.

While I had hoped someone might pick that up and run with it, it’s pretty clear that mobile development isn’t yet ready to take on location-based segmentation, and is continuing to focus on tools that are primarily useful in an urban environment.

Data from the Pew Research Center supports the idea that cell phones are gaining steadily on landlines in terms of communication devices, with landline telephones being one of the biggest losers in terms of perceived importance by Americans. But the landline still trounces the cell phone by 15 percent.

Maybe 2012 will be the year of mobile.

Blending of online and offline

In my predictions, I noted that increasing mobile use will drive increasing tools for blending online experiences with offline experiences. The main mechanism for blending the real world with the pixelated world is location-based services, "check-ins" being the lowest common denominator.

Several events so far this year seem to be bearing this out:

  • Yelp added location services in January 2010.
  • Facebook adding location services in August 2010.
  • Foursquare topped 3 million users in August 2010.

I had hoped to see a real estate tool that might provide meaningful information by blending online and offline through proximity to a sign or printed object, but that hasn’t happened yet to my knowledge (though the same concept was used to great effect for narrative uses by The Leak in Your Hometown).

Most real estate augmented reality remains in the "It’s like Layar but it shows properties for sale" stage.

Search and real estate aggregators

My predictions on this front were a little ambitious, possibly driven by rumors of Google/Trulia deals. But some of the main trends still hold.

Instead of Google diving into search and real estate aggregation mashup though, it was Yahoo and Zillow. Based on the presentation by Carter Maslan at Real Estate Connect SF 2010, it seems that Google is satisfied to focus on integrating real estate-related data within their local search, as a layer of data alongside cafes, schools, etc. …CONTINUED

Interestingly, one of the directions that Google is going within its local search services fits within the "blending of online and offline" trend. The increased satellite imagery, location photography (including the ski trails of the Vancouver Olympics), and development of 3-D modeling for maps is one aspect of this. Another is overlaying commentary from people onto the map itself.

And then, on the very far end of wishful thinking, I extended the hope that one of the aggregators would provide an API (application programming interface, or tools intended to assist developers) for housing data so real estate tech vendors could build more customized search tools that scale across various MLS regions.

That hasn’t happened. Carter Maslan’s statement on creating a single, nationwide data source for real estate: "I don’t think it’s either feasible or desirable."

So overall, based on what we know of 2010, it’s clear that I’m not Nostradamus. But it’s also safe to say that we’re witnessing a number of interesting shifts in the way people use and access information.

This shift will have an impact on many industries, including real estate in the years to come.

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