Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM TECHNOLOGY TIMELINE

Special Meeting of the NAR Board of Directors – Realtor.com – That was then, This is Now

“It’s like deja-vu, all over again.” Yogi Berra

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

As NAR Directors prepare to meet in Chicago in a few weeks, looking back is instructional.

On August 26, 1996, the NAR Board of Directors was called to Chicago for a Special Meeting to make important decisions regarding the “fate or future” of REALTOR.com…and also to discuss the collapse of RIN into a much smaller organization with a different focus.

NAR, through RIN, had spent something north of 13 Million Dollars at that point and the competition in technology was fierce. NAR Leadership feared NAR could not sustain future losses from RIN. RIN (the birthplace of REALTOR.com) was having financial difficulties and more…and the Directors were called to Chicago to sort it out. This was an emergency. Included here is Dr. Almond (Bud) Smith, then CEO of NAR. In the audio link below, Bud summarizes the crisis for the Directors in a pre-event package, mailed to each Director to allow them to prepare for their upcoming meeting. Decisions made at that meeting shaped the future of real estate on the World Wide Web.

Click on Audio linkBudSmithSpecialBoardMeeting

RIN LogoThe result of that Special Meeting was an “Operating Agreement” allowing the entity currently known as MOVE, Inc. to operate the Realtor.com domain, under certain conditions covered by the Operating Agreement. NAR recovered many times more than its original invesment in RIN when REALTOR.com (HOMS) went public as Homestore (See TimeLine in Resources tab above).

To better understand the evolution of how  the Industry got to where it is today with Internet Listing Display, we will publish here the most in-depth history of the evolution of Realtor.com.

NAR Directors…the future of REALTOR.com, the Official website of the National Association of Realtors, is in some ways, in your hands. If we can help with any information, let us know.

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Data Licensing MLS (Multiple Listing Service)

Data Exchange Method (DxM) – Not a New Concept

One of the difficulties in aggregating MLS data in 1996 (and today), was the fact that there are so many different data fields, and sometimes the same field may be identified by a different label, depending upon which MLS one belongs to (a bathroom may be labeled BA or BTH as an example). The proposed solutionby RIN and RIN’s Technology Partner, Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH – the same BAH  involved in the Snowden NSA leak case) was something known as DxM – Data Exchange Method. DxM was a “data dictionary.” Interestingly, in recent communications from RETS/RESO, DxM has new life today. The below, New Dimensions, has Jim Sherry’s take at the time.

New Dimensions Special 01 New Dimensions Special 02 New Dimensions Special 03 New Dimensions Special 04 New Dimensions Special 05 New Dimensions Special 06 New Dimensions Special 07 New Dimensions Special 08

 

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MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM

The Lion and Bill Chee

In April of 1993, Bill Chee, the 1993 President of the National Association of REALTORS gave his industry famous “Lion Over the Hill” Speech. In this speech, Bill stated that “the lion is coming over the hill, and Realtors are like chiuauas arguing over the bone.” It was this speech that led the NAR Board of Directors to vote to fund the first millions for the creation of RIN, the REALTORS Information Nnetwork, which in turn created and launched REALTOR.com. In 1993 I was a local association president in San Diego. I was inspired…Here is the text of that speech.

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Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM

RIN Network Desktop

The private side of RIN was referred to as the RIN Network Desktop (RND). It was a proprietary, business network. The WWW was considered too unsecure for the eventual vision of RIN, which included online customer communication and transactions. The RND was a basic “Dashboard” in today’s jargon. RealTalk was the first nationwide effort to create an online community in real estate. The remnants of the original RealTalk exist today. The button labeled HomePage takes you out of the proprietary network and out to the Internet..and the public side of RIN…Realtor.Com.

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This is one of the color slides used in presentations. The yellow dot inside a square indicates that there is something new behind that button.

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Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM

First Realtor.com Homepage

Here is the first homepage used by REALTOR.com. I created the first REALTOR.com presentations and delivered them across the US, and at the Convention in Atlanta. State of the art were color, acetate overheads (Portrait).

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Conferences MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM

RIN and Realtor.com Launch – NAR Trade Show and Conference – Atlanta November 1996

RIN had two sides, the public side and the private side. The public side was Realtor.com. The private side was the RIN Network Desktop. Here is the first convention handout.

RIN Flyer photo 1 RIN Flyer Photo 2

NAR Trade Show and Conference – November 1995.

Trade Show Talking Points for Leadership. This was a big launch. Bob Goldberg had arranged for a motorized derigible to fly around the convention center. Rhoda, NAR Staffer who ran conventions, said no…something about insurance. I think Bob flew the ballon anyway.

Convention Status Leadership Director Fact Sheet

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MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Realtor Information Network (RIN) REALTOR.COM

Listings Displayed on the Internet – Early Considerations

After Richard Janssen’s proposal to Walt Baczkowski in April of 1995, I was asked by RIN President, Ed Evans, to prepare a document on the subject of Listing Display on the WWW.

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Industry Considerations Prior to Widespread advertising on the WWW.

Industry Considerations Prior to Widespread advertising on the WWW.

This was answered on July 26, 1995 by Dick Hansen, who was working with BAH.

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NEAP Notes from BAH - July 26, 1995.

NEAP Notes from BAH – July 26, 1995.

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Data Licensing Listing Syndication MLS (Multiple Listing Service) REALTOR.COM

First Proposal to Create Realtor.com – Listing Display on the WWW

Richard Janssen showed Walt Baczkowski and I the listings that were beginning to appear on the WWW, and then submitted this letter and proposal to Walt, who was serving as a RIN Director at the time. I was serving RIN as the Interim VP of Marketing due to the quick departure of Jim Tebay.

This letter by Richard sums up the threat, and what can be done about it.

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MLS (Multiple Listing Service) REALTOR.COM

Early History of REALTOR.com: a Chronology of Events

There is a lot of the conversation these days about REALTOR.com. This may be due in part to the upcoming Special Meeting of the NAR Board of Directors in Chicago in a few weeks, where the fate of Realtor.com is likely to be discussed.

Many people selling real estate today were not in the real estate business when REALTOR.com was created back in 1995. I was lucky enough to be called upon to figure out how to take this technology experiment by NAR to the members and to the world. Some of the “memorabilia” still in my possession will be interesting to many who were around during that period.

In August of 1996, the NAR Board of Directors, summoned to Chicago for a Special Meeting, decided to place the management of Realtor.com with what became (by design) a publicly traded company (Homestore, AKA Move Inc).

My involvement began in 1992, as president-elect of the San Diego Association of REALTORS, when I met Richard Janssen, a local business man. He was building Kiosks to display limited amounts of listing data at some 50 Longs Drug Stores in San Diego County. I thought his idea for exposure of listings was a good use of new technology. Richard had obtained a contract to receive the listing information directly from Sandicor. our regional MLS for San Diego County. It made sense to me to give the public a glimpse of the property data before they went out to actually view the properties. It also looked like a good way for agents and brokers to market themselves.

As the president of the San Diego Association of REALTORS in 1993 I promoted Richard’s concept and company (RealSelect) at the orientation presentations at my association and at the 3 different real estate office meetings I attended each week. I believed in the power of information and making it available to the public.

Richard’s business model revolved around selling agents a one page “bio” displayed on the Kiosks along with the listing information. Interested consumers would “log on” to the Kiosk by entering their name and phone number, which was then provided to the agents with accounts with Richard’s company.

Richard’s idea seemed to satisfy the consumers need for basic information and lead the consumer to the REALTOR (the computers at those Kiosks later became the first REALTOR.com servers).

In January of 1995, at what we then referred to as the NAR Mid-Winter Meetings, in Orlando, I was interviewed by Jim Tebay, the “Field Marketing Vice President” for RIN and two other members of the “RIN Team,” Kathy Hartke and John Schladweiler. Jim, Kathy and John had only been with RIN a few months and they were recruited by Ed Evans, the RIN president, who had only been with RIN about 2 months longer than Jim. All four of them came from Comdesco, a “disaster recovery” company. I was contracted to do a presentation and workshop for the first major RIN event which was put on for the MLSs that had paid RIN $$$ to become “RIN Charter Members.” The event was held at the Drake Hotel in Chicago on March 4, 1995.

It took me all of February to learn all that RIN had done and to put together an all day program…and, contrary to what some may believe, they had done quite a bit by that point. The main consultant and “RIN Technology Partner” was Booz Allen Hamilton. In March of 1995 there was no serious conversation about advertising listings on the Internet. As a matter of fact, the concept was foreign to most REALTORS, and to NAR and RIN Leadership…”make my listing info available to the world on the Interwhat…are you crazy!!” was a common response back then (seems like a million years ago). Great fear was “Public Access to MLS” and listings from an MLS to a public portal “smelled” a lot like public access.

The event was deemed successful and I then became a full time consultant for RIN. My job was to travel and prepare the REALTOR marketplace for technology and what RIN would bring to the market, which at the time, was a proprietary network. I was a “technology evangelist,” socializing the REALTOR population about the coming changes in marketing and the conduct of business.

On August 9, 1995, Netscape went public and the RIN Board of Directors decided the REALTOR organization needed to make a move to the Internet. Part of my charge was then to examine and advise the RIN BOD and staff on the evolving World Wide Web and its advertising potential and to create a strategy for gaining listing content.

Back to Richard Janssen…Richard had an idea as to how his Kiosk technology could be adapted for use on the WWW. Walt Baczkowski, was the SDAR Executive Vice President at the time and a member of the RIN BOD. Walt and I introduced Richard to the RIN Board of Directors. There were few real vendors of Internet services at that time (for the purpose of displaying data on the web) and Richard’s Kiosk idea looked adaptable to this new and growing medium, the www.

The first name for the project of displaying listing information to consumers on the web (which we all now know as REALTOR.com) was “National Electronic Advertising Program.” We quickly shortened it to RPA (Real Property Ads). The first presentation on the subject was done for the Colorado Association of REALTORS (they were a “pilot state”). There were no listings on REALTOR.com at that time and the whole concept was just that, a concept. The presentation slides were acetate overheads of Kiosk screen shots I got from Richard Janssen. I still have those original overheads.

First listings up on the Web on REALTOR.com were from the San Diego County MLS, Sandicor, which Richard had under his Kiosk contract. Next MLS to go up was Austin. Next was Miami. The first name given to online listings was NEAP (National Electronic Advertising Program). We did not want to confuse it with “consumer access to MLS” so we made a point to call it advertising.

RealTalk, our online community, began a few months before REALTOR.com. As a consultant to RIN, it was my responsibility to build a structure for online community and then populate it with people and content. With the help of John Reilly, Mike Barnett, and Jack Harper, we did just that (and when RIN spun off REALTOR.com…we took our little community and put it on a listserv, the predecessor to what we have today).

RIN was formally launched at the NAR Trade Show and Convention in Atlanta in November of 1995 and by mid 1996 about 18 million dollars had been invested by NAR into the RIN project, both “sides” of RIN, the private side which we referred to as the RIN Network Desktop (where most of the money had been spent), and the Public Side which was REALTOR.com (and for which RIN owed Richard Janssen around $1,000,000 in back fees, costs, expenses, etc.

Certain people in leadership and the NAR Board of Directors, under pressure from the press and a few other groups (and based partly on the “bad acting” of the president of RIN, Ed Evans), feared NAR would lose all the investment in RIN and more, so there was a special meeting in Chicago in August of 1996 to decide what to do about the debt of RIN and what to do with the assets.

It was then that NAR decided to change the course of RIN and sell the public side (REALTOR.com) for past money owed to Richard Janssen and RealSelect for future stock in a new company (which turned out in final form to be Homestore, now Move, inc.). NAR subsequently recovered all of its investment in RIN and maintained control over many of the aspects of REALTOR.com based on the 1000 page document you hear discussed on occasion. No one at NAR saw any value in the community we had created, around 500 people, so InternetCrusade set out to build an online community on its own.

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Listing Syndication MLS (Multiple Listing Service) REALTOR.COM

Before there was REALTOR.com, there was HomeSelect

Richard Janssen had approximately 50 kiosks at Long’s Drug Stores around San Diego County in 1993. He had a contract for the “digital display” of listings placed by brokers into the Sandicor MLS. Caution: Avoid looking like “Public Access to MLS.” The MLS public access issue was very controversial in the early 1990s. Some members of the public argued that MLS should be regulated like a public utility.

Digital Home Display before the WWW. Home Select Brochure 02 Home Select Brochure 03 Home Select Brochure 04 Home Select Brochure 05 Home Select Brochure 06 Home Select Brochure 07

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