Real Extate search engine makes extensive use of tags but not hListing.

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Extate.com is a nationwide property search engine developed BytePlay Ltd, a privately funded London based technology startup.

Extate works by crawling all of the largest national estate agents websites every 24 hours to provide home buyers with up-to-date search results.

It uses a natural language search query function to make it easy for anyone to find the right property. i.e “Cookham Dean properties over £800,000 with four bedrooms”.

Once you are happy with your list of properties you can save them and share it via email with others.

What I like about extate is the simplicity of the application and the speed with which you can further filter the search criteria by making use of the extensive metadata tags. For example by clicking on the “Garage” tag it instantly redisplays the search results with only those properties that are tagged having a garage. This dynamic filtering appears to be using a simple list extension but I cannot find the xml namespace in the client-side code.

There are a couple of things I would like to see in a future version of extate. The first is a better integration with a mapping solution. Clicking on the map link simply brings up a new browser window with the multimap location. Competing sites like OnOneMap and Zoomf make extensive use of Google’s mapping mashup capability to combine the data.

The other functions that would be nice to see is the support for the hListing and geo microformats. Microformats are tiny bits of markup in web pages that label contacts, events, reviews, addresses, geo-locations, and other commonly published chunks of information. Microformats are often published on blogs and in feeds, but are increasingly published on other types of web pages as well such as event databases, social network profiles, reviews sites, and contact information pages.

The hListings microformat enables items for sale to be marked up so that microformat search engines such as Technorati or classified sites like Edgeio can help people easily find them using the semantic markup. Other real-world examples of sites supporting hListings include Craigslist, eBay.com and Match.com (hListing Extended Examples)

“While descriptions of products and services are common on the Web, particularly on e-commerce sites, we are proposing an hListing microformat for sharing, searching, and syndicating the information that helps match up buyers and sellers. This proposal follows the common practices of trading sites such as Edgeio, Craigslist, eBay and newspaper classifieds.”

In many ways extate, OnOneMap and zoomf could all be examples of hListing microformat classified websites but they are not and its “not” their fault because there are NO UK based estate agents currently publishing their housing details with a hListing microformat. If they did, then all of them could simply use the new microformat ping service – pingerati – to dynamically capture the published housing information.

How long will it take for estate agents to use the hListing microformat depends on how long it will take web designers to integrate microformats into their clients sites. To make it easier Dreamweaver have just released a microformat extension to help create them.

This article published on 28th August explains more about microformats and the chicken and egg situation that currently exists whereby people say “why should I embed microformat markup if there is no immediate benefit to the end user, in the form of search engine or browser support”. It’s coming and hopefully soon.

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