Zestimates & Seasons Change

[photopress:weather.jpg,thumb,alignright]Well, I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on Real Property Associates and Preferred Real Estate (registration required and in beta) websites. I’m looking forward to taking some time off from consulting/coding and combining the best aspects of both sites in my next iteration of RCG’s Zearch. (so many cool ideas to implement, so little time). Anyway, if your RSS feeds start to break or things start to appear in Spanish, it’s all my fault. At any rate, if I implement something interesting, I’ll blog about it.

Anyway, it’s been an eventful month while I’ve been too busy to blog. Here’s the month’s highlights for me.

Zillow makes the big time
You know you’ve made it when somebody complains to the government about you or otherwise starts a legal action against you. Greg on the BloodhoundBlog and Joel on the Future of Real Estate Marketing has all the gory details and the play by play action on the NCRC complaint to the FTC regarding Zillow. Frankly, I prefer it when Zestimates are too low. It’s keeps downward pressure on the county assessor’s desire to collect all the property taxes he thinks he’s entitled to. I only want a high Zestimate when I sell the house, when I’m living in it (which the typical case), I want it to be low! Hopefully this will blow over like a winter storm. Besides, nobody complains when the local weather report is 10% off (which has a bigger day to day impact on me than an inaccurate zestimate does). Speaking of which, has anybody else started building their ark yet?

I’ll never trust an integrated NIC again
This past month, marked the 3rd time in the past 2 years that a machine with an integrated NIC (that’s just fancy way of saying the machine’s motherboard that has a built-in network adapter) died or otherwise corrupted Window’s network stack on me. When it happens on a personal machine, it’s very annoying and when it happens on a server with paying customers it’s much worse. Maybe having FIOS at home or running a server is much harder on a NIC, than a cable/DSL is. Whatever the cause, I’m tired of dealing with poorly debugged network cards & drivers. From now on, I’m paying the extra $20-$40 bucks for a stand-alone Intel or 3com network card and I’m only trusting NICs that MS includes drivers for on the Windows CD. (For what’s its worth, it’s seems Linux folks are having similar issues w/ nVidia chip set NICs too, so I know it’s not a case of Windows sucking since every Intel or 3Com NIC I used in the past 6 years hasn’t given me a single minute of grief). Oh well, I just had to vent since that mishap cost me a day of my life, I won’t get back.

Changing of the leaves and the tile servers
John L Scott’s PR folks informed me that their site now has Bird’s Eye images for Portland, OR. The more interesting thing is that MS appears to have updated a lot of their aerial imagery on Virtual Earth recently. If you visit a site that uses the newer Virtual Earth control (such as local.live.com), you notice that Seattle’s images appear to be have been updated with photography from a fall evening (with better resolution) while the Eastside’s images still appear to be photographed during a summer afternoon.

Perhaps future versions of Microsoft’s & Google’s map offerings will have night/day and seasonal maps/aerial photography? Either way, it’s interesting to see the changing of the map tile servers coincide the changing of the leaves. (regardless if it was intentional or accidental). Speaking of the mapping wars, it’s going to get a lot more interesting tomorrow since MS is releasing a new Virtual Earth control tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “Zestimates & Seasons Change

  1. Robbie,

    I’m loving the 3D imagery available in Microsoft’s new release:

    (note you have to download a painful Active X control to get it to work!).

    I played around for a while and the one note I have for you is that they aren’t picking up your feed of geoRSS listings correctly. For example, this geoRSS set of listings for Ballard shows up in Georgia (the country, not the state!).

  2. Couple of thoughts on the new Virtual Earth 3D control.

    1) It’s not an ActiveX control. Technically it’s .net windows form hosted in IE. It’s more like a Windows only Java applet than an ActiveX control. Which means it’s a lot safer than ActiveX since the .net runtime prevents you from doing anything dangerous (like a Java VM does). However, the net result is that it is Windows only.

    2) It’ll be really interesting to see if Google will attempt to get Google Earth to run in a browser or try some other tactic to steel Microsoft’s thunder. (Aerial photography that’s time shifted somehow?) I think MS is doing a classic divide and conquer tactic here. MS implements a superior Windows only experience than runs in the browser. (Which suits the 80-90% of computer users that run IE / Windows just fine).

    For Google to top this they have to re-design Google Earth as a native code browser plugin since you can’t do this w/ Ajax, Flash, or Java. (I admit Maps 24 USA is a very impressive Java applet, so it might be possible in Java using JNI, but I doubt it). Worse, they’ll have to change Google Maps too, since they have to merge the 2D & 3D experience to compare to MS Virtual Earth.

    Worse yet, they have to implement it to run in Windows IE & FireFox (Windows, Mac, and maybe Linux) to be considered better! (which requires twice to four times the amount of work, that might only gain them 10-20% market share that MS doesn’t care about) This is one of the tactics MS used to win the first browser war against Netscape.

    3) Any investment MS makes in this area, the Flight Simulator team and probably other video game teams will be able leverage as well (so MS has 2+ teams investing in this technology).

    4) The thing I’m not crazy about are the virtual ads for Zip Realty and John L Scott in downtown Seattle. That effectively prevents me from taking advantage of this technology on my client’s web sites (who are competing real estate brokers and have no wish to promote their competitors). I hope MS makes it possible to disable this or otherwise provides an ad free version. I’m sure John L Scott isn’t crazy about the Zip Realty billboards either and vice versa. I dunno how my clients would feel about the Nissan or Fox movie ads though.

    5) Earlier this week, the Trulia Blog had a interesting post on Web 3.0: the return of desktop apps?. Perhaps this is the begining of the end of AJAX apps, and the birth of web hosted desktop apps? We all know that MS Office kills Google Office on speed and features, but Google’s web application offerings get still all the buzz. MS has been trying to combine the best of both worlds for a while now, and with the upcoming release of XAML/Vista, the new 3D virtual earth and the re-birth of the IE team it’ll be very interesting to see if MS can regain the mindshare it’s lost over the last few years.

    PS – I’ll investigate the geoRss issue. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  3. Robbie, I’m not sure it’s useful right now, so I’m not sure it is going to divide or conquer anything. Most people don’t use Google maps or Google earth – most people use mapquest and old school yahoo.

    In terms of other applications, I think you’re right – desktop with serious online connectivity is killer. I couldn’t imagine using Google Office (or MS Office Live) for anything more than little changes here and there. Dedicated desktop apps are still much better and will be for a while.

  4. Interesting analysis Robbie…

    One of the guys in my office who has spent time playing flight simulator said that many of the features (like the Golden Gate Bridge) looked identical in this new environment, so Microsoft has almost definitely taken advantage of that crew already! 🙂

  5. And in terms of the geoRSS, I think it might be something wrong with their software. I noticed that the export to Google Earth is working just fine. Also note that the version of Microsoft’s new maps hosted at My3DVistas has some additional features worth checking out.

  6. Hi,
    I had developed a “local live map” about my city with touristic references, in october. But since 2 days, the map not run through Firefox browser. Only run with IE.. Sorry, who can help me ? I dont know what happened
    hope you can help me ! email me !!

  7. Willy,

    Since I don’t have your e-mail or the url to your app, I can’t help you debug this.

    The 1st question is which version of the map control are you using? V2 requires a conditional comment to work on Firefox, V3 doesn’t. The next question is how are you loading the map? You should call the LoadMap method after the page load event.

    Good luck

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