In January of 2008, a new property website called Zoopla! started up. With property prices going ever skyward, it wasn’t exactly a surprising launch, but Zoopla! itself was surprising. Like all very good ideas on the web, it was simple and well executed, yet allowed for good, often complex, effects to happen: list every house in the UK and allow their owners to “claim” them, declare their intention to sell, and tune the price with extra data against a global price estimate, itself refined by network effects. Estate agents were (at least in theory) nowhere to be seen. The CEO even gave me a bottle of wine.
I’ve re-visited Zoopla! a few times since then, but today I see they’ve changed. They have, to put it simply, sold out to the estate agents. Gone are the comprehensive listings, the house price algorithm presumably now a figment of the agents’ traditional hype. I learnt in the new year that they’d found a large investor – the ominously named Octopus Ventures. From the press release:
‘Alex Macpherson, Chief Executive, Octopus Ventures, said: “Zoopla.co.uk has the potential to become the UK’s most valuable property asset. It is an extremely compelling proposition…”‘
He was right, but what he did with his £2 million doesn’t make Zoopla compelling in any way at all. They’re just like any other estate agency site now. What a pity – and what a waste of a good idea.
RIP Zoopla – you’re going nowhere now.