Even as we continue to hear that the conversation around syndication and data distribution is no longer needed, the fact is, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, many who are charged with making critical decisions relating to the future of their businesses, and the future of MLSs, struggle to understand this complex, yet seemingly simple subject.

A missing element that will help understanding, is an accepted nomenclature presented in a wiki or a glossary of terms that everyone agrees upon. It is the only sensible place to start conversations where the expectation is a rational and logical outcome. We find ourselves seven years into the syndication conversation, and we have yet to formally agree upon defined terms. In the absence of such an essential building block, I respectfully submit the following:

  • Syndicator – These entities collect data, under contract, from different data sources, (MLSs, brokers, franchises) and then distribute that data under contract to companies that wish to display and build a business around that data.  Point2 and Listhub are the biggest Syndicators in the real estate industry. Point2 is owned by Yardi Systems and Listhub is owned by MOVE (Realtor.com). There are smaller entities and magazines that syndicate. Too many sources is part of what is wrong with Syndication as we are experiencing it today.
  • Portal/Aggregator/Publisher/Third Party Sites – Those entities that receive the data, under contract, from the Syndicators, for display on their site, mobile device, etc. Zillow and Trulia are the leading portals. Realtor.com is also a leading publisher, but unlike the others, Realtor.com has direct feeds from nearly all of the MLSs in the U.S., and does not depend upon Syndicators for its MLS data.
  • Opt InInformed Consent. Publishers start with No Listings. Your listings WILL NOT be distributed (syndicated) unless you proactively so direct…you “Opt In.”
  • Opt OutUninformed Consent. Publishers start with All of the Listings. Your listings WILL be distributed (syndicated) unless you proactively direct them not to be syndicated. You “Opt Out.”
  • Authoritative Source – If a Publisher has data on the same property, from multiple sources, which one will the Publisher publish, and which will the Publisher ignore. This is also referred to as a Trumping Order. The best data available comes from the MLS. On a true consumer site, the MLS data would always trump all other sources. MLS data would then be said to be the Authoritative Source.
  • De-Duplication – The process, by the Publisher, of eliminating duplicate properties when a Publisher receives similar data from multiple sources. When duplicate property data is received,  the conversation regarding Authoritative Source must be decided by the Publisher.
  • “Feed Name” vs. “Feed Use” – IDX Feed, RETS Feed…these are names we give to lines of code that contain MLS data. A data feed can be given a name, but the terms of use, the licensing of the data rights is what is important, not the name of the feed. So a feed called IDX could be used for broker data sharing on each other’s websites (under a specific license agreement). That same Feed can be given to someone else to use, with different limitations or restrictions…or no limitations or restrictions. IDX is NOT Syndication.
  • Derivative Works – Any work derived from the MLS Data such as Automated Valuation Models (AVM), consumer behavioral data, a multitude of possibilities.