July 3, 2010

Google is breathing down the neck of the MLS, as well as other real estate search engines. It is consistenly improving its Google Maps Real Estate functionality and it is on a mission to add more specific search tools its offerings.

On Thursday, Google said that it had agreed to buy one of the web’s key providers of airline travel software, ITA Software, for $700 million. It says the move will allow it to improve the way consumers find flight information online.

In her remarks following the deal announcement VP Marissa Mayer said that while Google had a preference for “general tools for search,” there were “times where (to) really provide the best user experience, the most relevant results, we do need to have both a special set of data and/or a vertical interface that allows people to really express what they are looking for.”

In landing the deal, Google beat out reported bidders Expedia, and Travelport. The acquisition is now rattling the nerves of travel industry players concerned with Google’s intrusion into their industry.

In the land of online real estate, Google already has a popular service providing almost identical services to the MLS, Trulia, and other real estate search tools.

Google real estate, a component of Google Maps, provides thousands upon thousands of online listings. Many are fed to Google by listing aggregators as well as individual Realtors.

“About half of the queries on Google have a geographic component,” said Andrew Foster, product manager at Google. “We want Google Maps to be a map that contains all of the world’s information. We know that many UK home buyers are already using Google Maps in their house-hunting, and by adding property listings to the map we’re putting everything together for them in one place.”

On Thursday morning, Barclay Capital’s Douglas Anmuth wrote that Google’s “core search growth” is slowing, so there may now be a “greater urgency in pursuing specific verticals.”

MLS and other real estate search services are feeling the heat.

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