Zillow Flounders A Bit With New Release

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Greg’s right. Zillow.com’s latest release me-too’s Trulia.com. After their missteps last week (see Teething Problems as Zillow Bears its Fangs), the new release is not much of a surprise and definitely looks a little like Johnny-Come-Late-To-The-Party.

And while it’s probably a fair to say that the upgrades included in this release (Neighborhood conversations, Forum discussions and Polls) weren’t exactly driven by a desire to ape Trulia –  there’s no doubt, Zillow’s new release charts a new course for the company square at their Bay Area competitors.

Unfortunately, it feels a little like they are stretching to find new applications for their destination. Long term, it’ll probably going to end up a battle of the business models (broker-centric Trulia vs. agent-centric Zillow) and who has the deeper VC pockets. But having spent a little time with the new release over night, I can offer up this however. Zillow is getting confusing.

Finding my neighborhood was difficult. Then I realized it didn’t exist (the closest I could find in Zillow’s database was Hillsdale). And when I finally navigated to the right neighborhood page, I didn’t know where to go first. There were way too many options…

Demographics? Yawn. Photos? Uh, none. (They’d have been wise to license
a feed from Flickr or somewhere to prepopulate this section.)

How about meeting the neighbors? With names like NUTS4THEVEHICROSS and junkmail_pdx, I’m not sure they’re the type of people I’d want to go grab a beer with at the Lucky Lab. Pass.

Maybe I’ll look for real estate for sale. Hmmm. No way to filter my searches and the majority of listings didn’t have any photos associated with them. No thanks. Plus, I’m sure this place is way overpriced.

Zillow is obviously still struggling with issues with the quality of its database. With +70 million homes, it’s not that surprising. But all it takes is one bad experience to turn away a user for good and hopefully their push for broker feeds will fix that situation. In the meantime, pass.

Finally, chasing the conversation is a lofty goal. Not much happening in my ‘hood. It is day one of course, but StreetAdvisor is still a ghost-town months on since its launch. Yourstreet has already packed up shop (see Yourstreet is Now Empty) and Backfence.com is first in the deadpool.

I’ve seen no compelling evidence that people, other than real estate agents, really want to participate in real estate discussions online. I’m not sure if its because of a sour market right now or if, as Brian at 1000watt puts it, it’s the The Creepy Factor.

As for the other features, well they just kind of feel tacked on. Forums? Scooped by Redfin. Plus there are many places professionals can already participate, like the excellent Real Estate Webmasters forums.

The real problem is, I’m not sure what Zillow is trying to do anymore. Their reach gets broader by the day but at the same time, more and more undefined. In their race to build stickiness and pageviews (i.e. advertising revenue) it seems like they are losing their focus a bit. And unfortunately, when you’re trying to be everything to anyone, you end up being nothing to everyone.

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