The rise of online real estate services like Zillow and Redfin has been a thorn in the side of real estate agents, who have voiced displeasure at the affront to their cartel
. The basic tension stems from the fact that these services attempt to get around the professionals' control over real estate information. Now Zillow is looking to attack the industry from another angle. For various legal and ethical reasons, real estate agents aren't supposed to talk about certain details of a neighborhood, like demographics or crime rates, even though this stuff is pretty pertinent to would-be buyers. So in addition to its basic real estate data, Zillow plans to launch 6,500 new sites based around specific communities
, where users can exchange information that they can't get from real estate agents. Going in this direction clearly makes a lot of sense, since it's a weak spot for real estate agents. If Zillow can use its existing position to become a home base for this kind of information, it should prove useful to people in the real estate market.