The Real Estate industry can rest a little easier knowing that Google won't be coming to their rescue. Earlier today Google announced that they will be discontinuing their Maps Real Estate Search feature on Feb 11th; citing "low usage" as the major factor in the decision.
The change won't disrupt those organizations that rely on Google as their mapping backbone, however — see the map-based filtering provided on MLS.ca as an example. Google will continue to offer their maps API for developers to innovate. Though I'll presume the CREA will continue to be protective over its data, so that innovation will likely have to come from the Realtors themselves.
What's interesting here is how difficult it was for Google to compete when they had a mediocre data set to provide context. Real estate search is one area where Google's simplified search approach, no matter how user friendly it may be, simply isn't enough. Our inability to filter mapped properties by price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms or square footage (which the mls.ca site still does a poor job of), makes simple searching almost useless.
Google was obviously hoping to get the data from Real Estate Agents, who it seems, never broke ranks. It's difficult to say whether any of the real estate associations will claim a victory in the coming days, and likely not; but I would buy it if they did. That's one big data control threat off the table.
And perhaps a lesson that some commercial information interests can be defended in the age of crowd sourcing and free information? Not that I don't still see value in those trends, but it's a balance. Some data is mission critical, and this is a solid example of a group successfully defending their own turf. Good for them!
At least until we start swapping properties on Craigslist.