Why are all of the cool dot-com real estate plays -- Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, HotPads, and so on -- privately held? The current climate isn't good for these companies to test the public waters, but real estate-related Web presences that are part of a public company haven't been doing as poorly as you might think.

Yes, some public plays, such as HouseValues (Nasdaq: SOLD), have simply put too much weight on an intrusive model that was just begging to grow obsolete. But Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), though regarded as a dot-com slacker on many fronts, has seen traffic to Yahoo! Real Estate rise 80% over the past year, while dot-com-powered broker ZipRealty (Nasdaq: ZIPR) is actually growing its market share.

This news brings us to new a pair of press releases. Both of them, released this morning, further advance the merits of companies working on Web-based applications for real estate.

The first piece of news is that Yahoo! Real Estate, Zillow, and Trulia are championing a standard platform that will allow different websites to duplicate another site's listings. The creation of a common platform will benefit the industry and broaden the reach of home availability.

Having Yahoo!, Zillow, and Trulia on the same page is huge, but it gets even better. Other sites, such as IAC/InterActiveCorp's (Nasdaq: IACI) RealEstate.com have already agreed to embrace the universal standard. Now it's time to see whether larger sites such as Move's (Nasdaq: MOVE) Realtor.com or Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Google Base will resist the standardization.

The other piece of news is that Zillow -- the company that made HouseValues' model virtually irrelevant after providing free one-click neighborhood home-price estimates -- has beefed up its content.

Zillow now has data on 80 million homes, representing 88% of the country. The site has also enhanced its individual home-price estimates, a sticking point with some fellow Fools. Rich Smith, for example, believed the company's free price estimates were out of whack.

Even before the enhancements, Zillow had become a bit of a social network for homeowners. Current owners have claimed and updated more than a million homes. Isn't it really just a matter of time before users begin using the satellite neighborhood maps as a way to send announcements throughout their neighborhoods or virtually greet the newbies moving in?

Zillow is one of the companies that I expect to go public later this year. I hope the barrage of press releases this morning is a sign of a pending filing. I can't wait to explore the open house that will be the company's financials, hopefully in time to move in before everyone else does.

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