Yesterday, at the Council of MLS meeting in Washington, DC Upstream announced a major pivot: instead of being the single source of truth for listing and broker data, it would re-focus for now on syndicating listing data that it received from the MLS. The argument for the pivot was to offer the benefits of Upstream to brokers, without a major disruption to their current workflow of entering listings into the MLS. One can think of it, for now, as a would-be ListHub competitor. However, eventually, they will strive to accomplish their original goal. It was also announced that NAR would fund the effort through 2018.
Anyone who knows anything about the scope of what they have been attempting to do is not surprised at this pivot. Standards development to support a scalable project would take two or more years. The technology was always going to take three or more years to build. Then adoption, where stakeholders could start seeing benefits was going to take several years. That’s just listing management – syndication has complexities of its own, especially to broker systems where standards development has barely begun, in comparison to the work that has gone on around MLS for many years now. When the project started, with these ambitious goals (BHAG’s) Clareity figured this was a seven to ten year project, if adequately funded and generously staffed. But right out of the gate Upstream set expectations that the project would in beta inside two years. That goal was too lofty – they tried to fly too high, too fast, and now it appears Upstream is coming back down to Earth.
Les Brown once said, “If you’ve never failed at anything, then you have never reached for a big enough goal”. It was a sure thing that Upstream was not going to meet the expectations that had been set – no matter what vendor they had selected to do the programming. The questions were always, “What would they do when stakeholders ran out of patience?” and “What would they do when NAR funding ran dry?” We can now answer the first question, at least, and the funding question has been postponed until 2018.
Upstream is now in a different world than when it was announced a few years ago. At that point, no one product did everything that Upstream wanted to do. Now, there is a thriving competitive marketplace: Zillow, CoreLogic and others have been hard at work on technology to both enter data in MLSs and syndicate real estate data, as previously discussed on Clareity’s blog. Zillow is leveraging companies that it has acquired that have been working on their technology for a long time – Bridge Interactive and Retsly. CoreLogic, as the largest MLS SaaS provider, already had a firm foundation for their own efforts. Black Knight is competing too, fielding a product where brokers can add their fields as needed for their tech systems right into MLS entry. FBS has a solid solution, too. ListHub isn’t standing still either. Potentially, if Upstream’s current development path doesn’t work out, they could always buy technology or services from one or more vendors to offer brokers the complete solution they envisioned. That leads to an interesting question: after disrespecting current vendors and MLSs for years – and we won’t repeat the blame game everyone heard yesterday at the Council of MLS meeting – how will Upstream interact more productively with the community they are trying to join?
The discussion begins.
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