Indexing Listings Whitepaper •
What is Indexing?
In early November, the National Association of REALTORS MLS Issues and PoliciesCommittee considered policy changes related to RSS listing syndication, social media,mobile devices, and listing indexing on IDX compliant websites. The board did notapprove any changes, and the issue remains in committee. This paper addresses theimpact of allowing indexing of IDX listings and the unclear language in the NAR policy.In parlance, the word indexing is nearly same as the term cataloging. Today, IDX rulesand regulations do not require participants to block indexing. Section 18.2.2 -
This doesnot require participants to prevent indexing of IDX listings by recognized search engines.However, Section 18.2.6 states “Except as provided in these rules, an IDX site or a participant or user operating an IDX site may not distribute, provide, or make any portion of the MLS databaseavailable to any person or entity”The dilemma here is that the rules to not clearly indicate which activity considered allowableindexing, and which activity is electronic distribution of the MLS database. The pivotaldifferentiator seems to be related to who is doing the activity. Presumably, any third party who isrecognized as some sort of search engine is free to copy and index the MLS database.
The old IDX rules and regulations that governed the display of MLS data on agent andbroker websites contained a provision that obligated anyone displaying MLS data tomake ‘reasonable’ efforts to prevent listings from being scraped (copied) from their website and duplicated on another website.Indexing and scraping activities are very difficult to differentiate. The process for performing either activity is fundamentally the same. A computer software solution calleda “bot”(short for robot) will visit a subject website and index or catalog all of theinformation that is on that website. The difference between indexing and scraping is afactor of who is doing it and what they do with the data that is being indexed. Scraping isloosely defined as copying information from one website and publishing it to another website.There are certain websites that like Google, MSN, Yahoo and others that are commonlyunderstood to be Recognized Search Engines by consumers. To be clear – NAR hasprovided an unofficial definition of Recognized Search engines as “intended to meanthose facilities average consumer consider to be ‘search engines.’ These websites arethe most prevalent users of bots that index content across the World Wide Web. It isimportant to understand that the behavior of this form of indexing has the goal, or intended goal today of referring consumers to the best websites that contain the bestinformation to answer the consumer’s search parameters as entered into their searchfield. In order to achieve this goal, the recognized search engine copies the indexedinformation, or a portion of it, over to their servers where it may be manipulated anddisplayed in the form of a search result to visitors to their website.