Zillow: Two-thirds of employees are IT workers

Zillow: Two-thirds of employees are IT workers

Summary: Real estate site Zillow has roughly 150 employees today and 100 of them are information technology workers. It takes a lot of folks to maintain a database with data on 33 million homes--and counting.

TOPICS: Data Management

Real estate site Zillow has roughly 150 employees today and 100 of them are information technology workers. It takes a lot of folks to maintain a database with data on 33 million homes--and counting.

Zillow CFO Spencer Rascoff presented at the Kelsey Group's Interactive Local Media conference Wednesday in Philadelphia and noted how Zillow's database is becoming more complicated as it moves from a read-only tool to one where users can edit their listings. In many respects, Zillow is starting to look a little more like Wikipedia in terms of content. It has also opened up its APIs.

Zillow's database runs on Microsoft's SQL, a fact that isn't all that surprising given that many of the company's employees hail from Expedia, which was once a Microsoft venture. One switch for Zillow's developers was using Java from Microsoft's tools, says Rascoff.

Among other tidbits:

--Rascoff said traffic on Zillow has been well above expectations, but "monetization has been slower than we've liked." The problem: "It's a lot harder to hire a direct sales team than we've thought," says Rascoff.

--When asked how Zillow will fare in a housing bust, Rascoff replied "we're not sure yet."

--Nationwide 62 percent of Zillow's home price estimates (known as Zestimates) are within 10 percent of an actual sales price.

Topic: Data Management

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  • Zillow presentation

    Hi - Spencer from Zillow here. Just to clarify my comments from this afternoon's speech at the Interactive Local Media conference by the Kelsey Group:
    Our database of homes actually contains information on about 70 million homes, almost every home in America. This includes Zestimates (free and instant valuations) on about 50M and other information on about 20M more. So far, about 27 million of the 70 million homes have been viewed on Zillow.
  • Little more about the technology at Zillow

    David Beitel, Zillow.com CTO, here. Just thought I would add a few more details about our platform. We do use Microsoft SQL Server 2005 for our database needs. Our web and mid tiers are written in Java using Spring and Tapestry frameworks. This is running on a Debian flavor of linux.

    We have employees from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we are not married to any particular technologies we have used in previous jobs. We look for the right tools and solutions for the specific systems we are trying to engineer. Microsoft has built some great technology and MS SQL Server has been rock solid for us. We will also be deploying some MySQL in the future.

    On the front end, we are trying our best to use web standards to drive a flexible, pleasant to use and easy to maintain experience. We use ajax and other scripting techniques to try and create web applications that are interactive.

    Our mapping systems are a bit if a hybrid. Using some 3rd party geocoding, street rendering and aerial photography, we have built our own mapping service. Additionally, we use Microsoft's Virtual Earth platform for our bird's eye views, which is super cool. Real Estate is the perfect application for this technology. We serve these maps and our own information, like parcels, housing information and Zestimates, through a flash based module. This allows us to make a dynamic and interactive user experience that is very hard to do in DHTML and browser based scripting.

    Well, that is a little more detail about how Zillow is built. Larry, if you want more details or to hear about how we do testing, product design, or other parts of our product development process, just give shoot me an email and we can set something up.

    - David Beitel
    CTO, Zillow.com