Thanks to Ryan’s earlier post, I have spent the morning digging into the NAR’s attempt to label the Google Search Engine a “scraper”.
Clearly, the intent is to stifle Realtor.com’s competition.
There is no other explanation for a rule that specifically targets SEO by dictating that we cannot put the content that consumers search for (addresses, MLS#s, the names of developments, etc.) in the places that Google looks for it (page titles, URLs, etc.), while Realtor.com continues to publish that same information in those same places.
How stupid is this? Let me count the ways:
- It’s legally stupid: The DOJ went after the NAR during the BUSH years and decided to settle last year. Do they really think the Obama DOJ is going to ignore such a blatantly anti-competitive (not to mention technologically indefensible) rule?Does the NAR really think the Obama DOJ would side with a cartel over the consumer when even the Bushies were like, “You know, we normally stick it to the little guy in favor of Republican donors but you guys are just ridiculous.”?
The instant one of the boards we deal with tries to enforce this rule, I will be filing a compliant with both the FTC and the DOJ and mine will be one of many.
- The timing is stupid: Obviously, Real Estate is at the center of the economic storm that all Americans are weathering right now. Real Estate professionals are already distrusted (one study in the UK found that less than 10% of Britons trusted Real Estate agents).Such a ham-handed attempt to control information for their own economic benefit just feeds this perception, making the NAR (and, by extension, Realtors) an even more attractive target for the Obama DOJ.
- Trying to “protect” content is stupid: Ask the Recording Industry or newspapers how well clinging to an obsolete business model by “protecting” content works.Information wants to be free in a networked society. The Internet itself was built to re-route traffic around roadblocks, like a city that used to have phone lines getting nuked by the Russians.
As roadblocks go, whatever the NAR throws up will be a joke. Ryan has already demonstrated that it takes about 2 seconds to set up an “illegal” site.
Sure, the NAR and the MLSs can go the route of the RIAA and try to litigate the issue to death, but that will just turn into legal whack-a-mole. Not to mention the utter brilliance of the NAR suing members for advertising listings.
- Refusing to learn from your mistakes is stupid: The original deal the NAR did with Move Inc. was an attempt to “control” market data. Fighting the lawsuit in Austin TX that was eventually joined by the DOJ was another attempt to control market data.By the time the courts got around to hearing the case, the NAR settled with the DOJ, and why not? In the meantime, their own members went out and made the issue of controlling market data moot by giving it away to sites like Trulia.
Consumers HATE it when web site owners put their agendas ahead of the consumer’s agenda. The NAR’s decision to pimp out Realtor.com for a profit created a user experience vacuum that companies like Trulia and Zillow were more than happy to fill.
The irony (as Russel Shaw has pointed out) is that Trulia wouldn’t exist if Realtor.com was designed to benefit consumers instead of being designed to annoy them while extorting money from agents and brokers for “featured placement” of their listings.
In other words, by being tone deaf, willfully ignorant, greedy, or all three the NAR created Trulia, Zillow.com and countless other aggregators and Real Estate Web site vendors (including yours truly). All of these companies would have found it much harder to gain traction if the NAR had used member’s dues to build a site designed to offer a consumer service instead of a site that is designed to offer banner ads from 1-800 Mattress.
- Putting NAR’s priorities ahead of its member’s priorities is stupid: There is already plenty of doubt about who the NAR really works for among brokers and agents who pay $500+ a year for the privilege of putting an “R” that means next to nothing to consumers next their names.Making it harder for Realtors to out-rank Realtor.com, and other sites whom they must pay for leads, in Google for their own listings proves to the NAR membership that, whoever the NAR works for, it sure as hell isn’t them.
Isn’t that sort of like “taxation without representation”? Americans have a proud history of refusing to put up with that sort of thing, and this will not be any different.