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What if you could tap a button – like you do to pair a Bluetooth device – and all your MLS data would instantly populate in each of your applications? That’s what open standards in real estate are all about. During our RESO Fall Conference in Milwaukee last week, this publication we released tackles this subject head-on, our new “Why Open Standards are Vital to the Real Estate Industry: A RESO White Paper.”

At times, it appears that we don’t always fully appreciate the significance that open standards play in driving efficiency throughout the real estate industry. This new RESO white paper looks closely at open standards in general – the impact they have had on other industries – and the significance that open standards have and can continue to have in shaping the future of the real estate industry and streamlining the real estate transaction.

Understanding Open Standards

Industries have a couple of choices when it comes to standards. There are open standards and proprietary (closed) standards. As our white paper explains, “To be an ‘open’ standard, the development and approval process must be a consensus-based, collaborative process that is transparent to participants.”

In RESO, we do that through our workgroups and committees with more than a thousand subject matter experts from every industry segment representing over 800 companies worldwide. That’s where changes to standards for the real estate industry are proposed, vetted on by these experts and formally voted on. It’s why we publish meeting agendas and minutes and host the online discussion groups to make everything fully transparent and readily available to all members of RESO, and not just members of each workgroup. We also hold democratic elections for our Board of Directors, and the Board provides final approval and ratification for new versions of standards.

Another requirement of an open standard is that it must be vendor-neutral. All RESO specifications are vendor-neutral. At RESO, it would be incredibly difficult for any company to gain an advantage over its competitors as we have so many different firms that comprise the RESO Workgroups and our Board of Directors. It’s also why, at the beginning of each workgroup, committee, board and general meetings, we read our antitrust policy!

Finally, an open standard must openly publish its documentation. Moreover, companies must be able to use the standard at no cost, and the number of implementations must not be artificially limited. This is why RESO publishes its standards online here, and RESO does not charge for the use of its standards. It’s why the cost for RESO membership and standards compliance certification both are designed to be accessible for startup companies. This is also why there are no limitations on the number of standards-based implementations that may be created.

Proprietary Standards

Some have elected to take a different direction and adopt proprietary or closed standards. As the RESO white paper documents, history is littered with failed attempts of proprietary standards. Think Sony’s BBeB (Broad-Band eBook), which lost to the open ePub standard, or their Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC), which failed to the MP3 standard.

For years, every digital camera maker had their own proprietary memory card format: Sony products used Memory Sticks, Olympus used xD, and Fujifilm used SmartMedia. But in 2000, SanDisk, Panasonic, and Toshiba created the SD Association (SDA), a non-profit organization, which developed and enhanced the highly successful, portable and interoperable Secure Digital (SD) memory card standard. The move to open standards led to the obsolescence of all of these proprietary formats.

As our white paper notes, “(Proprietary standards in real estate) would have a creating entity retaining the intellectual property rights such as the copyright or patent of the standards. They would be created by a limited set of individuals, eliminating the ability to leverage knowledge and expertise outside the boundaries of any one organization. Standards documentation wouldn’t be openly published, limiting the number of developers that could be contributing to industry innovation.”

TRIBUS and Homes.com Case Studies

The underlying research that came out of both the TRIBUS and Homes.com case studies, done in cooperation with RESO, strongly demonstrates the need for open standards. The new white paper details the dramatic advantages that both organizations were able to document that significantly benefit real estate brokerages and agents.

The white paper also examines tradeoffs from open standards, including the most common complaint: Speed. Because open standards are consensus-based, they take time to create and change. However, the white paper offer ways that RESO and its members can better address this issue and increase implementation with specific recommendations.

Not at the Conference or Miss Getting Your Copy?

Available now is a PDF version for a free download here.

DLU October 25th, 2018