Count Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff among those who believe that startups and legacy businesses on the Web can’t do enough to take advantage of the unique opportunities presented by growth in mobile Internet usage. Just don’t expect to do things the way you’ve always done them, he told attendees at the Web 2.0 Expo Thursday.
“Mobile has completely changed the trajectory of our business, he said, outlining how the real-estate listings site made a conscious effort two years ago to put as much effort into designing its mobile applications as it did the flagship Web site. Rascoff, CEO of the five-year-old company, had a few pieces of advice for those who understand the need to bring mobile users into their orbit but still have to keep the desktop-Web gravy train rolling.
One of the more interesting tidbits was that Zillow changed the way it hired software developers. The company used to hire the best developers it could find for specific technologies but found it too difficult to find mobile development experts. So, instead, it started simply hiring the best developers it could find and training them internally on mobile development.
Zillow also realized it needed in-house analytics tools to get a complete picture of how many people were accessing the service through mobile applications as opposed to through the main site. Once it became clear how much traffic was passing through the Web apps, it decided to change the name of the company from Zillow.com to Zillow.
Now Zillow owns the real estate categories on all major mobile platforms and announced Thursday that it is launching a BlackBerry app. BlackBerry development is not at the top of very many lists these days, but Zillow’s huge real-estate agent audience uses BlackBerries at a disproportinate rate and the company needed to be there, Rascoff said. Still, the fact that Zillow prioritized the iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms ahead of the BlackBerry despite those stats is telling.