It's an interesting and unexpected development. After launching the property search facility as part of its maps offering in America in the summer of 2009 (and then expanding it to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and, of course, the UK), Google announced yesterday that it was throwing in the towel. This, from the Earth and Maps team blog:
In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API (used by listing providers to submit listings), we’ve decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011.
When Google announced it's move into the property space, the fear - among UK property search business and portals - was tangible. What the search giant had given them (the mapping API so many of the business relied on), it could take away and use itself, along with the years-worth of innovation by both smaller startups and property portal giants. Its power, too, as the web's most significant controller of online advertising posed a threat to established businesses. So why the abrupt change of direction? Perhaps they've realised that providing a decent service is as much about property as it is about search, and that's an area in which they're just not that interested. Google's official statement seems to both point to conservative users reluctant to shift from brand name portals, and admit the web's master-innovator has been out-innovated by existing property search tools.
Google: are maps best for property search? [July 21, 2010]
Google Property just launched [June 16, 2010]
Technorati Tags: property, real estate