I read this last week on Property Drum about Google – a good or bad thing?
I am interested to know where they are going next with property as the tools they have add enormous value to people looking for or managing property.
Google has dropped its property search function on worldwide maps. “Not every bet is going to pay off,” says spokesman.

Six months after last summer’s fanfare of a new dawn in property mapping, Google’s quest for domination of the property search process is to be shelved.

A Google spokesperson told PROPERTYdrum, “This feature wasn’t used as extensively as we would have liked, and proved difficult to maintain, so we’ve removed it. Note that all Google Maps layers are not going away, just the real estate layer, which was our first foray with displaying vertical industry information via the maps interface.

This also allows us to prioritise resources and focus more on our core commitment to search, local search and building maps that provide a digital atlas of the real world. Google likes to experiment because we believe that’s the best way to create ground-breaking products and features that make a difference in people’s lives.  But not every bet is going to pay off.”

As ever with the ‘less than good news’ the story was not released to the press with the usual noise, but softly filtered to key people yesterday. Later, writing on his blog, Brian McClendon, VP, Google Earth and Maps, said:

“At Google one of our key philosophies is to take risks and to experiment. To that end, in July 2009 we announced the ability to find property for sale or rent directly on Google Maps. This is one of the “search options” next to the search box on Google Maps, and is currently available in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan.

“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.

“We’ve learned a lot and been excited to see real estate companies use Google Maps in innovative ways to help people find places to live, such as Coldwell Banker’s use of Google Maps and YouTube, or Realtor.com’s Android app that lets you draw a shape on a map to find all properties you’re interested in.

“Yet we recognize that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible. We’ll continue to explore this area, but in the meantime, Google offers other options to home-seekers: you can still access other information in Maps such as local businesses, directions and transit times, as well as aerial and Street View imagery to explore where you might want to move, and also use Google search results to find helpful real estate information and websites.

“Real estate companies can also continue to use tools from Google to help connect with buyers and renters who use the Internet to research properties. For example, companies can use the Google Maps API to embed customized maps that are useful to potential clients right on their own web pages. Our Google for real estate professionals site contains various methods for generating leads and improving real estate business operations.”

The property portals’ reactions have been quiet, but Sheraz Dar, Acting Group Marketing Director at The Digital Property group said,

“Homehunters have a complex and often comprehensive set of criteria when searching for a property, and as such need more information than a simple listing. As Google acknowledge themselves, an immense effort goes into producing a property portal. Here at The Digital Property Group we fully understand these needs and through our property portals FindaProperty.com, PrimeLocation.com and Globrix.com we provide a wide variety of tools to assist the homehunter in their search”

So for now at least, estate agents’ concerns about For Sale by Owner (FSBO) damaging their already struggling businesses, and the property portals sensing a very real danger that agents wouldn’t need them, it is back to the status quo. The reason being that nobody actually raced to google Maps to find a home; it seemed just as easy to look at the clean, clear details on a portal, or even, for the real old fashioned types, in the newspaper or actually, heavens above, in the estate agents’ windows. Proof perhaps that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

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