Why you should sing ‘happy birthday’ to Zillow

The portal has changed the real estate industry, in many ways for the better

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Twenty years ago, I hung out for a couple of years on the third floor of the Redwest campus at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the software company was dabbling in every imaginable digital venture. One day, I was meeting with Laura (Bordewieck) Rippy, the product manager for the software company's secret real estate venture, later dubbed MSN HomeAdvisor. Recently minted Harvard MBA Ian Morris, who later started Market Leader, was also there, as well as Larry Cohen, who became Bill Gates' chief of staff. Then, the always enthusiastic and boyish-looking Rich Barton wandered in. The 28-year old Stanford-trained engineer was cooking up an online travel venture that did not have a name yet, but it came to be called Expedia. In a few years, it wiped out most travel agents. Ten years later, Barton -- along with his Expedia wingman Lloyd Frink -- hatched Zillow. Unlike the travel venture, Zillow did not lay claim to the economic livelihood of real estate a...