MLS Listings of the San Francisco Bay area is apparantly the first MLS in the country to join The Realty Alliance, Leading RE, the Council of MLSs, Home Services and others who have sent letters to NAR requesting a denial of recent wrokgroup suggestions for IDX policies.
MLSListings, Inc. operates a regional multiple listing service for 8 REALTOR® associations in the Silicon Valley and coastal regions of Northern California, encompassing a service area of over 28,000 square miles and representing more than $70 billion dollars in annual real estate transactions. We are owned by these associations, and governed by the brokerage community. Hybrid in nature, MLSListings is a full MLS service operation, as well as creators of software development initiatives. Given our close proximity in providing products and services in the hub of technological innovation for this country, we are often times contacted first with new business model ideas, which we consider thoughtfully.
Our board of directors has reviewed the “Report and Recommendations of the IDX Data Use Work Group” proposed by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee. We stand in opposition to this recommended policy change, and suggest it be reconsidered.
While we applaud the work groups efforts to create measures to ensure the IDX data policy keeps pace with technology trends, enabling real estate professionals to redistribute other brokers listings to public and social media sites on the Internet is inconsistent with the reason why our NAR IDX policies were created in the first place.
Today, IDX policies are very specific regarding the permission and usage of other brokers listings on a broker or agents consumer-facing website. These same policies are also strictly enforced by MLS rules. Allowing distribution and publication of other brokers listings to a social media site in the manner recommended in this report would be non-compliant with the IDX guidelines used today regarding refreshing data on web sites.
For example, posting a listing on Facebook is considered “static” or something similar to what you might see displayed in a newspaper advertisement. The posting, unless its in an I-Frame linked to an IDX site, is not synchronized with the MLS; it doesnt change, and even if it did, the postings on these social media sites would disappear as new entries were made. As these postings roll off, consumers would not be informed of any changes associated with this listing (ie. price, status, etc). However, if the recommended policy changes incorporated the following modifications–a requirement for an IDX compliant website to be fully synchronized with the MLS to display broker listings on a social media site–then there would be a strong case to allow IDX display on social media. Without these modifications, youre simply advertising someone elses listing without their permission.
The recommendation to allow RSS feeds of IDX data by agents and brokers causes us the most concern. RSS, most commonly defined as Real Simple Syndication, is a family of web feed formats (links to web pages or HTML formatted content) used to publish frequently updated works–such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, video, in a standardized format. RSS feeds can be read using software called an RSS reader, feed reader, or aggregator, which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile platform-enabled. There are two kinds of syndication feeds, RSS and atom, and both use XML to encode the content of a source.
In looking at these proposed recommendations from two different perspectives, I see both an upside and downside effect. On the upside, consumers who frequent various sites to research real estate information can use their feed-reader to pull data frequently from various sites and view those updates in one place. Yahoo News is an example of a site a consumer can use to pull updates on a variety of topics into a common feed.
On the downside, an unauthorized listings aggregator can subscribe to RSS feeds from a variety of website sources, aggregate and then redistribute that data, with no formal obligation or agreement to follow any IDX rules. They can also monetize this listing aggregation in a variety of ways, including redistribution. A perfect example of this is Feedster. Feedster has a widget which allows searchers to add search results to any website. Although not an industry leader, they have successfully managed, as an RSS aggregator for their clients, to redistribute content theyve collected to more than 350 other aggregation sources. Compared to the worlds largest RSS aggregator, Google, their influence may be limited; however they serve as a good example of the type of abuse which can be invented by allowing IDX data to be made available via RSS.
Furthermore, as we illustrated in the Facebook example earlier, RSS feeds are essentially static pieces of information which quickly become outdated as new information or details become available. An RSS feed simply drops data off to a consumer for review on their own media page. If the consumer waits a few days to read this page, the data becomes obsolete. This is a disservice to the consumer and is also a violation of IDX compliance rules as it relates to regular information updates.
And to make a finer point, IDX is a “display” policy. RSS is not display technology, but “transmission” technology. If its considered appropriate to address transmission technology in the IDX policies, there are quite a few other transmission technologies to consider as well. The important thing to remember about the suggestion to allow RSS transmission of IDX listings is that it is a method for uncontrolled transmission and facilitates misuse of data and display of data in a manner contrary to other parts of the IDX policies.
Numerous problems exist surrounding todays listing syndication. Portals have copies of the same listings from multiple sources and the quality of the data is inconsistent from one listing source to another. The only quality data comes from sources synchronized with the MLS. Any approved recommendation allowing RSS feeds to transmit data will only lead to a degradation and devaluation of real estate data on the internet as a whole–not to mention the inability of organized real estate to enforce IDX rules on RSS software and aggregator providers, as well as other end users. IDX policies and rules were established to protect and safeguard broker listings in the marketplace not circumvent it for third-party or non-participant use without the brokers permission.
Pat, not only do we suggest your committee reconsider the recommendations of this work group, but we suggest you vote it down.
Robert Bailey, Chairman