Zillow Group Buys Bridge to Go Upstream

by Victor Lund on August 16, 2016

Zillow LogoZillow Group announced the purchase of Bridge Interactive, making them the provider of listing input in a number of MLSs, and the data distribution manager in many others. In some ways, Bridge Interactive is like Upstream, but not a competitor. Bridge is about helping brokers solve data problems and may become a conduit that more easily permits Upstream to allow brokers to deliver listing content to MLSs.

Throughout the process of developing the Request for Proposal for Project Upstream, the technology workgroup evaluated many technology offerings. At the end of the day, there were three pieces to the Upstream puzzle that needed to be put together – Listing Input and Management; Data Repository; and Listing Distribution. Listing input and management is the hardest par, as is it includes the ability to handle the sophistication of an MLS system. Many technology firms have ample Data Repositories so that is not the hard part. Listing distribution is pretty common and not hard either.

A stand-alone solution for listing input is rare, most MLS systems have this component baked in. Atlanta-based Bridge Interactive developed a specific application to solve the problem of overlapping market disorder for MLSs, whereby a single listing would go into two or more MLSs. As a case in point, the Atlanta, GA area has two MLS offerings – FMLS and Georgia MLS. Bridge Interactive allows brokers to enter a listing once into Bridge Interactive and publish it in both MLSs, as well as capture additional fields required by the broker. The hard part is supporting the business rules of an MLS or multiple MLSs and resolving them into a single user interface.

Zillow Group has had the pieces to Upstream with the combination of Postlets for listing input, their massive data repository, and listing distribution, through both Postlets and Retsly. I would expect that their data repository is equal to or greater than most any data repository in our industry. It certainly is massive and seems to have no trouble with the largest concurrent real estate load in the world. But Postlets was developed for a simpler type of data input – namely input for syndication. Today, Postlets has been re-deployed as the Zillow Rentals Manager and is no longer used for listing input.

With Bridge Interactive, Zillow Group has improved their capabilities in listing input significantly. Moreover, they have acquired the team from Bridge, who are among the sharpest in our industry at such endeavors. Zillow Group is providing MLSs with a data protection guarantee that they are not going to misuse data processed by Bridge.

Beyond listing input, Bridge Interactive also excels at delivering a RETS Server. As WAV Group wrote on Feb 20th 2015 – Bridge had good fortune come their way as a result of the implementation of RESO Standards that mandated features already in their application. If you do not know much about Bridge – go back and read this.

RETS is the core product that they offer to MLSs. The Bridge server is used by MLSs to send data to IDX vendors, brokers, or other sources like Zillow.com (Bridge has a product called MLS Direct Syndication that supports broker opt-in). In this regard, Bridge Interactive is along the lines of the Retsly service offered by Zillow Group – but Bridge is more widely adopted by MLSs. Bridge has always been recognized as a superior RETS server management tool to that provided with many MLSs systems. It has a lot more features and functionality.

With the acquisition of Bridge Interactive, Zillow Group will have a compelling and competitive solution to the future CoreLogic product called Trestle™, winner of this year’s Inman Innovator Award. Incidentally, Trestle™ is a free service. In fact, every MLS system includes a RETS server with the core system. It’s hard to understand why Zillow would want to compete against “free.”

Zillow Group will not compete with Upstream per se. Upstream is a broker owned company and they already have a vendor, and the solution is already offered to brokers for free. It doesn’t really make sense to have two Upstreams. Zillow Group appears to be bolstering their efforts started with Retsly, and aims to continue distribution of the product to MLSs.

One thing is for sure, Zillow Group continues to add nice applications to their stack that make them a formidable competitor in everything they do. One wonders if they have looked to buy real estate assets of CoreLogic, Black Knight, or others. At a $7 Billion valuation – they could handle it. It’s probably not in the cards. If it was, it would make little sense to buy Bridge Interactive. Regardless of what we seek in reading tealeaves, Zillow continues to make real estate very interesting.

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