Data Democracy

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In our last post we briefly described three problems Rex is trying to solve in the real estate industry, starting with the multiple listing service.

A question often posed is why we chose to solve these issues using Ethereum and IPFS. Subsequent to why, we are asked to describe the benefits of incorporating these technologies into the solution.

Our answer is simple: Data Democracy. To elaborate lets better understand the problem at hand:

The HTTP protocol was designed to address data on a specific computers IP address and/or location within the network. The effect encourages content to be attributed to a specific physical computer or “node”. The node is centrally located in some geographic location (office/home/data center). The data sits on a physical hard drive that is owned, maintained and financed by a person(s), group or entity.

This has been an efficient way to distribute content. Updates to the source are immediate and authorative. Two excellent examples include publishing a blog or running an online store for a company to sell goods and services. Today’s success of the web is a testament to how well the system works. There are two main issues with this model:

1. Scaling, once a website starts to become popular the owner needs to scale up the hardware/cloud instances etc to support the demand. This can be expensive and those costs need to be passed down to the consumers of the website.

2. This rise of peer contributed content websites, and this is where the big problems start.

Over time, the hosted subject matter has pivoted from content created by the host and about the host to content created by the user (eBay, Facebook, Twitter). Humans are inherently lazy and have become amenable to exchanging data for free services without much of a thought that they no longer own the thoughts, comments and pictures they have signed over to the website operators.

Overtime these individual companies continue to collect tiny fragments of information from a global user base. The information has become a commodity to these organizations. The user has become their product.

The Real Estate industry is no different. Centralized multiple listing services have taken a market commanding lead in terms of readership/listings, in turn dictating rules, price and conditions. The users options are limited to:

A. forgo the platform, missing out on a huge market around the world or,

B. acquiesce to the platforms rules regs and fees.

Smaller competitors try to compete with free listings but obtain very little readership. An obstacle has been how to incentivize users to switch. “Why switch to a listing service that has very little readership? If they do beat the big guys, they themselves will run into the same monopoly of data and scaling issues thus starting the vicious cycle all over again.

This very simple problem of data residing on a physical hard drive on a physical server that a physical person or company pays for is the cause of these problems. We believe in decentralizing and democratizing the data, giving it back to the people.

We believe your listing data should be free. Free for you to do with it as you please without signing over control to a large corporation. Because it’s in these large corporations interest to lock down and restrict access to your their data to only ways which benefit them.

Initially, we also believe we can incentivize the real estate community to switch by not only offering a low cost alternative but issue rewards to them to list on Rex.

Unfortunately there is a bit more complexity involved with decentralizing the data. However with today’s advances in storage/bandwidth there is light at the end of the tunnel. Projects such as IPFS are paving the way by changing the HTTP location based addresses to content based addresses. Combined with flexible blockchains like Ethereum we can rebuild the old centralized multiple listing services into decentralized platforms where users retain ownership of their data and users no longer become the product of large corporations. Of course the big players can still use the data but we end their monopoly. They are forced compete on a level playing field thus refocusing on value added services.

1 thought on “Data Democracy”

  1. The MLS system is largely controlled by the Realtors. Understandably, they had to train, take a test, and pass in order to get that accreditation. However they are also charged huge amounts for access to the MLS. Amazingly I was attempting to do a project for a realtor and realized how archaic it was. A flat database file, which would need to be parsed, to be used in a any way. Made for some great opportunities for developers charging fees to access the parsed data. Zillow rolls are around, realtors and their associations are terrified, but zillow allowed those professionals to do a better job.

    I believe that a decentralized system should also consider those professionals in the real estate world, as they do some of the heavy hitting, contracts, negotiation as well. In an ideal world the whole transaction could be a handshake through the blockchain, will take a while for that to occur.

    Looking forward to seeing how your project goes. If there is a mailing list, please sign me up.

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