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The Sad Decline of Diverse Solutions IDX

If you’ve followed my posts here on Geek Estate, you know I’ve had a long history as a customer of Diverse Solutions. I’m not sure exactly when I started with them, probably sometime in 2008, but I was using their dsSearchAgent (Mapping IDX) well before they launched dsIDXpress (WordPress IDX). Their Mapping IDX was truly innovative, enabling DIY agent/broker/webmasters to embed a world-class search tool as attractive and intuitive as any custom option available at the time. Then they released their revolutionary WordPress IDX plugin, democratizing indexable IDX at a time when the technology had only been available through much more expensive, proprietary website companies.

I jumped on the WordPress bandwagon and was impressed by the results. It was exciting in those early days. You could discuss issues and make suggestions directly with talented programmers like Andrew Mattie, Jonathan Mabe and the founder/CEO Justin LaJoie. Improvements and innovations were implemented at a rapid pace. This pace eventually slowed, as would be expected, as the products matured. But still, the customer service remained strong and the product was solidly reliable.

Then, in late 2011, Diverse Solutions was acquired by Zillow. DS reps assured a nervous clientele that this would be a good thing. With the huge resources of Zillow behind them, we were told that innovation would accelerate, and good things were in the pipeline. But just as customers began to get over the initial shock of the acquisition, another shock was announced: Zillow would offer essentially the same WordPress IDX product that DS customers were paying $59.95/month for (plus website hosting), for $10/month (including website hosting).  And unfortunately, instead of acceleration, there was stagnation. Loyal customers tried to be patient during the transition to the “Zillow era” at DS, but after a couple of years customers began to complain on their forum that innovation had slowed to a standstill.

The product still worked, and was converting leads, so many customers stuck with them, hoping for the best. But then came the reliability issues. Looking back through the forum, reported outages were few and far between before 2012. But with each passing year, outages became more frequent and longer-lasting. You can see in the comments of this 2014 post a number of complaints about a lengthy outage which happened shortly after that post was published. Already at that point customers were describing the outages as “frequent.”

In 2015 through 2016, the outages got worse. Way worse. I’m talking outages every day. Then multiple times per day. I had become friendly with one particularly dedicated DS customer service rep, and she had given me her cell number where I could text her when there was an outage so she could notify the team. Without that contact, there would have been no response to outages that happened on weekends or weekdays before noon Eastern, since DS was on the west coast.

At first the outages were only 5 to 10 minutes long. But soon they were hours long. Reports to DS customer service were replied to slowly, and with a boilerplate “we’re working on it” response. As the chorus of discontent grew louder in the Diverse Solutions Mastermind Group on Facebook, DS customer service reps seem to have checked out. Reps who used to chime in and engage with customers in the group stopped responding. My contact stopped responding, too. I have to think that was a top-down directive.

Diverse Solutions down

A record of daily outages of dsIDXpress on our site in July 2016.

Messages to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and diligent Zillow liaison Jay Thompson came back with nothing more than the same “they’re working on it” response we had been hearing for many months, going on years. It had become apparent that either they did not know how to fix the problem, or did not care to. How is it possible, with all of the resources at Zillow’s disposal, that they could not fix this? The only non-nefarious conclusion was that Diverse Solutions IDX was simply not a priority for Zillow.

The multiple, daily, extended outages took a massive toll on our website traffic, and in-turn our business. I made the decision in late 2015 to leave Diverse Solutions. Looking back at my Google Analytics, I should have left much sooner. I just kept thinking (hoping?) they would figure it out and and turn things around. But they never did.

Painful decline in my website traffic due to extended outages at Diverse Solutions

Painful decline in our website traffic due to extended outages at Diverse Solutions

After an extensive search, I finally found a vendor I was excited about (about whom I will write more in a later post). It took me longer than I had planned to get my new site live, because I was adding new content and custom features, but I finally went live just last month, August 2016. I can only guess as to how long it will take to rebuild the lost traffic.

I am left with so many questions. Do they have any idea how to fix their problems? Do they even want to? What are Zillow’s plans for Diverse Solutions? Will it be shut down? (Earlier this year DS stopped taking new customers for a time.) Will they let this slow decline continue? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

About Mike McGee

My wife Tina and I own and operate Intown Elite Real Estate in Atlanta GA. Like most small business owners, I wear many hats. I'm the broker, IT support guy and amateur webmaster, among other things. I run a few websites, including my primary site at IntownElite.com, a niche site at JacksonLakeHouses.com covering lake homes near Atlanta, and others.

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  • That is scary and sad Mike. Sorry to see your drop in traffic.

    I use Armor.com to host my website. I started having problems with my previous provider and wanted someone who would dig deeper into issues when they do occur.

    We pay more than other options, but the reliability and support are worth it.

    • Yeah, in this case it was not my host that was going down, it was Diverse Solutions IDX. The site itself would technically be up, but the hundreds of thousands of IDX pages would just show an error message.

  • Sunsetting a product is very hard. But this is not the way you do it. I’ve seen other great things coming out of Zillow, the DS floundering was surprising and out of character. But, excited to see what you do next Mike. No reason to hold on to the past. It’s been years since they were on the leaderboard.

    • If Zillow is sunsetting DS products, they have not informed their customer base. Yet, they continue to collect fees.

      • I have no idea what they’re doing. I can only speak from my own experience and what is blatantly obvious (no updates, no support, no comments, no responsive site builds, no promotions, no mention in press/reports, etc, etc etc)

        • My theory, FWIW: DS was important to Z when Z’s strategy was to sell services/ads to all agents of all types. Providing free DS-based sites was a big part of that effort. As Z’s strategy changed to focus only on top-producers/big-spenders, DS was no longer needed. The decent next-step would have been to sell DS to a company that would invest, support and enhance the product. But, after crunching the numbers, they determined that collecting premium fees while minimizing support and service was the most profitable strategy for Z. At the the expense of DS customers.

  • Looking forward to hearing about your new vendor. This unfortunately does seem to be an ongoing frustration with many of the vendors out there.

  • Marlow Harris

    I had a similar experience with hosting my site with Advanced Access. It was a peach for years and when they were purchased by Homes.com we were promised the earth and the stars but it ultimately became a useless POS. I’ve tried a number of other website providers/creators/hosts with mixed results and am still looking for a provider who is responsive, will host my site, troubleshoot IDX problems and help with updates and SEO.

    • I can tell you from first hand experience from a vendor perspective, web hosting is a pretty crappy business to be in. Most clients expect the world (instantaneous responses and fixes), while expecting to pay rock bottom prices due to the fact that Dreamhost, godaddy, bluehost, etc will all host a site for virtually nothing.

      There are absolutely hosting providers out there who will give you what you want/need…they are just not cheap.

      • Right, I pay $560 per month, so a lot more than GoDaddy, but it is better for my needs.

  • I’m not trying to start a conspiracy theory, but when I worked at a fortune 500 company years ago they would buy smaller companies to offset profits for tax purposes. After 5 years (accounting requirement), they let them die. It may be a coincidence, but Zillow purchased Diverse Solutions 5 years ago…

  • Jane Peters

    Diverse is a complete disaster and it is obvious by the complete lack of response from anyone there that we are looking at a company that is winding down. Not only has their service been atrocious for the past year, there has not once been a single outreach from them to their customer base. Not one single time. The sad part is that most users have no clue what is going on. They continue to pay for a product that is ruining their business. This will not be sustained for long.

  • Mike Price

    Where did the information regarding Zillow’s plan for DS come from? Does somebody have some empirical information that Zillow is planning to do away with DS? I have a client with a DS based site in the NJ area that hasn’t had this kind of issue. I know that DS had a good client base prior to the acquisition. They were adding new clients and MLS’ at a good clip and I can’t think of reason that Zillow would kill a revenue generating channel like DS. That’s pure speculation on my part since I don’t have any information or used any back channel to find out. I’m not sure about the 5 year timeline, but Greg’s comments do hold some validity if prior actions by other post IPO companies are any indicator. It wouldn’t be the first time Zillow dumped a previously acquired company. From what I’ve seen, most of the decisions Zillow has made in that regard made good business sense.

    In many cases these type of acquisitions are more about grabbing a base of talent or halting a brewing competitive threat. The brands are usually absorbed and killed a lot faster than 5 years.

    Hopefully Jay or someone from Zillow will respond with their side of the issue. Having been involved with providing this type of service in the past (way past :), sometimes the problem can’t be controlled by the IDX host. Dealing with multiple MLS’ can be a nightmare. If you’re providing any type of broker reciprocity service, you’re only as good as the data and the reliability of the feeds you get.

    Anyhow, I would recommend anyone looking at IDX solutions do their own due diligence and ask people in your market who they recommend before you cross DS off of your list.

    • What information regarding Zillow’s plan for DS? I made no statements on that, only asked questions. And I promise you your client in NJ has had the same downtime issues, whether they were aware of it or not. The issues are not related to any specific MLS data feed, instead the entire DS system nationwide would go down frequently, and often for hours. Unless one had monitoring in place specifically for IDX-generated pages (as I did) one might never know they had a problem.

      Jay has responded on the downtime matter in the DS Mastermind Group on Facebook, saying they are having “sporadic database latency issues” and that they are “working diligently to resolve the issue.” But since this has been happening for many months (on and off for years, actually), at some point one has to cut their losses.

      • Mike Price

        I posted that question to the entire thread since it was implied by more than one person. It’s obviously just speculation but I’ve sen this kind of thing go viral quickly and it gets hard to bridge the gap between perception and reality once that horse has left the barn.

        • @disqus_KDfGcQi3f1:disqus Just one simple question. Why did nobody from Zillow comment? They have 100% seen this thread. Appreciate your stance as an editor, but dude.

          • Mike Price

            Hi Greg. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m surprised that at least JayT would have said something. As far as I know, isn’t that part of his mission at Z? I can’t speak for Zillow but given the amount of qualified traffic this blog gets, I am as baffled as you at the radio silence. It certainly doesn’t help the speculation factor regarding the future of DS.

          • Hey Mike, I guess all I’m saying is – what is there to speculate on? They’re clearly not working on this product. There haven’t been any significant updates in years. Your readers, who are excellent and hard working brokers and technologists all agree.

          • Mike Price

            I can’t argue with that. I was just looking for something more empirical on the issue. I’ve always thought the DS product was great and even did a short stint as their social media director right before Justin and crew sold to Zillow. Facts are facts though. Perhaps the communication will improve and some answers will be forthcoming. In the meantime they will only bleed clients.

  • My path was just like Mike’s (except Mike’s technical expertise and patience far exceed mine), but my perspective on Diverse Solutions is a little different. A few early adopters like Jay Thompson and others received outstanding, white-glove service from DS, but that was never the case for most of us. At best, they were a B-. They quit innovating long before the Zillow acquisition. But, they were always pretty good at keeping the systems running. Unlike most, I was positive about the Zillow acquisition hoping that it would bring more investment, better products and better customer service. That never happened. As outages increased, customer service only got worse. Never, ever did the head of DS reach out to their customer base. Had Zillow or DS management cared about the DS customers, they would have stepped-in and cleaned house. But they didn’t. They continue to collect a premium fee knowing their services are down on a regular basis. Their daily actions say they do not care about their customers’ success. It’s an embarrassment.

    I finally gave up on DS and moved to Real Geeks at the beginning of the 2016. That migration required a huge investment of my time — time not spent on my business. It was painful, but worth it. For me, Real Geeks is everything that DS is not. Management is fully engaged with their customer base and they continue to strive to have the very best product available at any price. Now I focus on improving my site’s content, responding to leads, and developing new customer relationships. I don’t spend time worrying if my site is up because it always is. I wish I had given up on DS and Zillow a year earlier.

  • We’ve got two well-respected associates here who have given lengthy, detailed explanations of a long-term decline in service level (technical and customer). I’ve heard the same thing from others.

    I always believed the acquisition of DS by Zillow was purely for the IDX data feeds, not the customers. But that’s for my tinfoil hat group to discuss.

    There seems to be a desire from some of the commenters to soften the perception. So let’s get those explanations/glowing reviews posted here, or the perception becomes reality.

  • Ginger Coolidge

    Good article. I didn’t know of your site Mike, I will keep up with it from now on. I’m a WP front-end developer and part of my niche is IDX integrations. I’m also a former real estate broker so that helps. A little over a year ago I stopped working with DS clients and tried to get them to other IDX providers. The main reason was they released an update to their plugin that broke all of my clients sites. They decided to rename elements in their widgets that I had written custom styling for. I’d never seen a vendor do that. Also, anytime I needed support I never received a response……I think the only help I remember was another forum end-user.

    • Mike Price

      Ginger, would love to see some links to your client sites. Will you revisit DS as an IDX option again? Who are the vendors you are using now?

  • Gabe Sanders

    Thanks for sharing this information. I will not choose Diverse Solutions for my IDX any time soon.

  • Mike Price

    Well, those of you who thought Zillow was in the process of shedding Diverse Solutions from their portfolio were on the money. It would appear that DS doesn’t fit their “wider strategy”. https://www.inman.com/2016/09/19/market-leader-buys-diverse-solutions-from-zillow-group/
    That explains, at least to some extent, why Zillow was silent on the issue. M&A agreements always include mutual agreements with regard to public discussion during due diligence efforts. That still doesn’t excuse the total silence on the issue. Zillow’s clients deserved at least some guidance that their concerns would be addressed in a meaningful way. It will be interesting to see how Market Leader deals with things.

  • Andrew Detweiler

    Hi Mike. Waiting with baited breath to hear what you switched to. I entered real estate about a year and a half ago (after a two-year stint studying marketing tech) and chose to build my WordPress site – rockvillemdcondos.com – with the Diverse plug-in … ironically, because it seemed like it was the “safest” option. Based on all the time/effort I’ve put into my current site, I will ride it out as long as I can. But would love to know what you went with. The worst part is that I believe I found a good replacement, but they believe the real estate theme I use (which lists Diverse as its preferred solution) will likely cause problems. Sigh.

  • Heath Ullman

    Mike,

    We are a family brokerage in South Florida and we are revamping our website. In doing so I have been researching IDX providers one of which was Diverse Solutions. You have provided valuable information about DS. What IDX provider are you using now? I know you said you would write about them in a later post however I have not seen any mention of the new provider.

    Appreciatively,
    Heath Ullman
    Broker
    Option One Realty, Inc

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