Jeff Corbett - the XBroker - has a very good article questioning traditional real estate business practices and asks if MLS can itself survive. He makes some tremendous points about how an industry recovers from a bubble business model but more importantly how it evolves with the explosion of social networking and technology.
1) Compensation reform (initially) on the Broker to agent level (CGI splits, desk fees) is manifesting out of brute downward pressures on the market: depressive home values, heavy inventory and lack of credit. These conditions are pushing many agents out of the industry and causing the best agents to become rather brand or franchise agnostic, perpetually asking: What have you done for me lately? Loyalty means little in a Bear market. Broad compensation reform between agent and consumer is an inevitability.
2) My overall point that the agendas of the Zillow's and Trulia's of the world don't line up with the individual agent brokerage is shared and expounded on (far better than I could) by my very smart friend Rob Hahn. How long is it before a critical mass of the best agents adapt to open their own (very virtual) brokerages, adopt these types of sites as primary marketing channels, utilize their superior products and services in place of the expense of affiliating with a broker-franchise-brand that provides diminishing, even negative value?
3) The 'open web' proliferated by the likes of Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect offer the 'open Social Networking Optimization framework' described above on highly scalable and cost effective levels. Aggregating and sharing granular information has never been faster, easier or cheaper with free communication syndication platforms like blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed and FeedFuze. Agents that have learned to harness these tools and services don't need to work for a major brand to succeed. They are becoming the brand.