Venture capitalist Chris Dixon recently published an interesting post called, Two eras of the internet: pull and push. In it, he describes two patterns that have emerged within the internet over the past decade and a half.
Pull is when you are seeking information, usually an answer to a question. You want to know the closing time of a restaurant, the description of a hotel where you are thinking about staying, the details of an historical event you heard about, etc. You go to your computer and pull the information. The killer app for pulling information was Google.
Push is when you are using the internet in a more passive way and content comes to you. The killer app for push is social networks, the most popular being Facebook. Information is pushed from user to user via likes, shares, tweets, etc. People tend to push things they find funny, interesting, moving, outrageous, etc.
Now let’s think about this for a second, because it’s a pretty significant change.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information. And they have certainly made it easier for us to get the information we want. Instead of physically searching for something, you just type in a few keywords and it pops up. But, it still involves us deciding we want something and then pulling the information.
What’s fascinating to me about push is the idea that content and information comes to you. And it’s one of the reasons that I’ve always found Foursquare more interesting than Yelp – even though Yelp is far more popular as a tool to help you find somewhere to eat, drink and so on.
When I walk into a restaurant or bar now, oftentimes I’ll see a Foursquare notification popup on my phone showing me a tip that somebody has left: “Try the meatballs – they’re to die for”. I didn’t search for that. I didn’t ask for a recommendation. But Foursquare knew where I was and presented me with that information.
Now, there are obviously potential downsides to constant interruption, but let’s focus here on the opportunities. How could these same principles to be applied to other industries such as, say, real estate?
I think there’s a pull and push parallel.
Today MLS operates in a way like a search engine for homes. You decide you might be interested in buying a home and so you go online and start pulling listings.
Of course, the vast majority of people also work with a real estate agent. And in a way they’re kind of like your push. They get to know you, they figure out what you’re looking for, and then they push relevant listings and information to you.
And maybe that’s why nobody has killed off real estate agents – despite the numerous attempts. Everybody has been focusing on new pull platforms (listing platforms) as opposed to a new push platform.
But I think it would be naive to think that these emerging push platforms won’t reach far beyond social media.