I've been watching with amusement the blogosphere's reaction to Zillow's recent announcement of their new "Make Me Move" feature. According to their press release:
"...any homeowner can now post a Make Me Move price...A homeowner can easily post a Make Me Move price without exposing any personal information. Zillow then enables interested buyers to contact the owner through an email "anonymizer."
Several bloggers who I respect have given positive feedback on the concept, calling it "a big play that could completely disrupt the real estate industry" or "They are finally bringing disruption possibilities to an ancient industry". And the fact that Benchmark and other VC's thought enough of the concept to invest $57 million is quite an endorsement.
While "Make Me Move" may well be disruptive, what I do know is that I've seen this disruption before.
Back at the DEMO Conference in 2000 (where I launched Half.com), I remember seeing Bill Gross launch a similar website called MakeAnOffer.com. As the Washington Post wrote at the time:
"Idealab founder Bill Gross floated a big one with his latest Web business: MakeAnOffer.com, a real estate site centered on homes that aren't for sale. Go ahead, Gross said, make an offer "and we will communicate your offer to the homeowner anonymously.""
What's amazing to me is that the concept is getting rave reviews now, despite the fact that back in 2000 Bill's idea didn't get a good response. In fact, as ComputerWorld reported back then, "Makeanoffer.com drew laughs, and not in a good way." From what I can recall, Makeanoffer.com never got traction and appears to have been quickly shut down.
So why the positive response now for an idea that previously failed? One can either interpret this as (a) an idea that was ahead of it's time, or (b) justification for Om Malik's concept of "Old Bad Ideas 2.0"
Which one is it? I don't know. I do know that this would not be the first time that Bill Gross has come up with an innovation ahead of it's time -- after all, he invented the pay-per-click advertising model that was ultimately made popular by Google (which was the subject of a wonderful chapter of John Batelle's book, "The Search").
Either way, it makes me want to explore any other "laughable" Bill Gross ideas that didn't get traction in Web 1.0