• Upstream and AMP are separate, unique initiatives -- the technology driving them is being built by RPR.
  • Conspiracies and "hall talk" benefit from the confusion on these projects.
  • MLSs aren't going anywhere, but the technology surrounding them is rapidly changing and defining loyalties.

There continues to be confusion about Upstream and AMP (Advanced Multilist Platform).

They are two separate projects. They are not dependent upon each other. Allow me to explain.

Upstream is a surface service for brokers

Upstream creates a single broker-owned database where brokers add and edit their listings. This database can efficiently and accurately deliver each broker’s data to whomever the broker approves, including multiple MLSs, portals, franchisors, vendors and so on.

Upstream delivers the broker’s data to the MLS. It does not negate the broker’s relationship with the MLS for cooperation and compensation.

AMP is deep-water MLS geekery

AMP is software that works in the guts of the MLS and allows more choices and options to improve services. Without diving into the uber-nerd mechanics, we can be clear that it is different than Upstream.

Just know that AMP is an MLS tool. It can make MLSs more efficient and valuable, a long-term benefit for brokers.

RPR: The cause of the confusion

Realtors Property Resource (RPR) is the company building the technology for both Upstream and AMP. The projects themselves are very different.

Like the famous Reese’s commercial, there are potential synergies when your chocolate happens to bump into my peanut butter. RPR’s tools for agents could improve as the company’s breadth and reach grows.

There’s nothing in these projects’ mission statements driving toward that goal, though. They’re built as two separate and sustainable products on their own.

The talk in the halls

I hear in the rumor mill that everyone is trying to drive the MLS into extinction. Depending on the day, it’s Upstream, Zillow, AMP or some upstart software provider. Skepticism and strategic awareness are useful and healthy for the industry, but the hall talk is often is just conspiracies and territorialism.

It’s not happening. The MLS is as much of a concept as it is an organization. Brokers created the MLS to provide the framework to share listings and enforce the mutually-agreed-upon rules of cooperation and compensation.

If the MLS’s role were to be disintermediated by someone, that new entity would have to take on compensation to have brokerage support. The commission is where the rubber meets the road.

Nobody’s stepping up to do that. Everything else is just shifting the technology that sits on top of the MLS cooperative.

That being said, driving the inefficient, duplicative, protectionist individual MLS organization into a new member-serving MLS reality –that’s a freight train coming down the tracks.

The talk in the light

Possibly the best antidote we’ve gotten recently for industry hall talk was a piece by Russ Cofano, Bob Hale and Victor Lund. Encompassing Upstream, AMP, Zillow Group’s Retsly Connect MLS product and more, it outlines the players and positions on the chess board:

“Retsly Connect appears to be part of ZG’s broader strategy to align with those MLSs who oppose Upstream,” Russ Cofano said.

“Retsly is HAR’s initial API provider, and there are other similar initiatives that we are considering,” Bob Hale said.

“Some WAV Group clients are sending letters to their MLS explicitly to opt out of having their active and sold data licensed to Zillow,” Victor Lund said.

HAR sounds like it’s open to using an RPR-led product as well as Retsly. The assertion that there are MLSs who are outright opposed to Upstream is an interesting one, though. We only seem to hear that they have “questions and concerns.” (I must not be lurking in dark enough hallways.)

Then there’s the Zillow-broker effect. Some of you are exhausted by it, but it would be foolishly arrogant to ignore it. A significant portion of brokers doesn’t trust the company. There’s a reason Retsly gets the headline and CoreLogic’s product, Trestle, gets buried.

Right or wrong, no one should be surprised when an MLS product is hamstrung because brokers don’t want their data in Zillow’s hands. You can sing to the heavens about the Patriots’ glories, but there are a lot of folks who’d rather go naked than put on a Tom Brady jersey.

There’s no better way to close this post than to ask you to get the full story. Read the whole piece by the dynamic trio — and I’ll see you next week in D.C. for NAR Midyear.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and President-Elect of Seattle King County Realtors. You can find his team at SeattleHomes.com and BellevueHomes.com.

Email Sam DeBord.

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