Why Google Is a Fair-Weather Friend

Real Estate Top 10

If you’re a startup that’s building its business using Google’s services, be warned, because the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant is a fair-weather friend. Take real estate listings companies like Trulia and RedFin, which both use Google Maps as part of their offerings. They got a rude awakening today, thanks to moves being made by Google’s Sydney office. Google’s Australian arm is looking to get into the classified real estate business via a new tool that uses Google Maps and connects buyers and renters to available properties.

The service is launching with listings provided by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia and homehound.com.au, the free property listing service owned by Michael Hannan’s Independent Print Media Group.

Google is planning to roll out has had a similar service in the U.S. as well. And when that happens, the company will be competing with Craigslist, RedFin and countless other real estate listings providers, including those provided by newspapers for over a year, the UI of which is being updated today. Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee correctly points out that Google’s service is pretty rudimentary compared to the in-depth information provided by pure-play real estate services.

What remains to be seen is how the real estate industry will react. One of Australia’s leading real estate advertising publishers has decided against giving its listings to Google. Closer to home, the National Association of Realtors recently made its feelings clear when it called Google a “scraper” site and supported a local board’s decision to stop allowing some MLS listings to be crawled by search engines.

Whatever the outcome, it makes perfect sense that Google is taking this route; numerous real estate listings services already use Google’s mapping service and the company needs to find new ways to make money in order to keep its revenue stream growing. If it doesn’t, the company faces the prospect of its stock going south. And Google can’t afford to have its stock sink because it needs that currency to keep its offices stocked with smart engineers.

And if that means competing with its friends, its attitude is — just ask Mozilla — so be it. Big companies often encroach on the territory of their partners and today’s news shows Google is no different.

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