Right now, the Internet is being rocked by a heavily-criticized decision by the National Association of Realtors(R) to allow individual boards of Realtors to view Google as a “scraper” google scraper site and require that Realtors with a dynamic IDX feed block it from obtaining and publishing information from listings on Realtor.com and NAR affiliated sites. The criticism has caused the NAR to take another look at this decision, with the section 15.2.2 of the MIBOR (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS®) MLS Rules and Regulations revised to state the following: “Participants must protect IDX information from unauthorized uses. This requirement does not prohibit indexing of IDX sites by search engines.” However, on the basis of a recommendation to take it back for more consideration, the motion was tabled until NAR meets again in November.
The question of revision of section 15.2.2 of MIBOR’s MLS Rules and Regulations brings up the question of how much control are the boards exerting over the distribution of listings and why. After all, much of the information that the NAR is blocking its members’ listings from showing can be found on sites such as Trulia.com or Zillow.com. The only people being blocked from showing information are… Realtors. These are the people referenced by the mission statement of the NAR: ” The core purpose of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is to help its members become more profitable and successful.” This does not appear to be reflected in the online treatment of NAR members.
Wouldn’t allowing listings to be accessed by Google’s formidable indexing system be part of helping “members become more profitable and successful”? Since the NAR has the power to change its Rules and Regulations, one would think that they would have changed their R&Rs to reflect the changing nature of the Internet. But no, the NAR Board voted to postpone a judgement that would clarify the entire issue. This has raised questions about whether the NAR is really an organization that is working for the success of their members or one that is using its membership only as income.
To many of the people weighing in on this issue, it seems ridiculous that search engines, Google in particular, are being treated in the same manner as “scraper” sites, sites that steal data, images, and layouts for nefarious purposes of their own. Search engines are there to provide people with relevant Internet results; their collecting of data is done to facilitate this. Since millions of people use Google, blocking real estate data from those interested in such is interpreted as basically shooting the Realtor in the foot. After all, when the average person goes to look at sites on the Internet, they go to Google or another search engine. Given Google’s dominance in the search engine arena, one could argue that having Google index their site is a key part of doing business on the Internet.
Whether or not NAR has its members’ best interests at heart with this issue, it is certain that Realtors and brokers and other real estate professionals are taking notice of who, exactly, are the haves and the have-nots in the online real estate world. Once the word gets out about this issue, NAR could be faced with some serious questions about its online conduct and its treatment of its members.