SAN FRANCISCO — Welcome to San Francisco and to Inman News‘ Real Estate Connect conference, the annual industry event where real estate meets technology. This year’s confab brings together major representatives from Google, RE/MAX International, Yahoo!, Microsoft, the National Association of Realtors, and dozens of other real estate and technology companies.

Since the first San Francisco Connect conference in 1997, attendees have recognized the event’s knack for bringing together big ideas, confronting conflicts and presenting new partnership opportunities in the face of industry change.

This year will be the first in some time to explore new avenues during an undeniable slowdown in housing markets.

Conference sessions and panel discussions will explore such issues as how the industry will confront change, the future of multiple listing services, new technology developments in mapping and lead generation, paperless real estate initiatives and succeeding in a down market.

Inman News Publisher Bradley Inman will kick off the main conference today with an address about honesty in real estate. Zillow founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink will join Inman to discuss lessons learned from the real estate industry, and RE/MAX International Co-Founder and Chairman Dave Liniger will give a keynote address about what the Internet has taught him in the last year.

This year’s event also offers innovation master classes, which aim to give attendees practical hands-on experience with mapping, lead generation, vertical search and paperless technologies, in addition to exploring strategies for working in luxury and international real estate and defending the agent’s commission.

Attendees have the opportunity to sit in on blogging workshops where they will learn how to set up and maintain a blog. And they will also be able to get hands-on demonstrations from technology vendors in the exhibit halls and newly added Demo-Sphere.

Inman News this year has added a special portion of the conference for real estate software developers. Connect Tech will take place today from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and features Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame, as well as Slashdot founder Rob Malda. The special conference segment will explore mapping, technology standards, transaction management and offer developer intensives and roundtable discussions with the industry’s most involved technologists.

Another special event this year is the Internet Mortgage Marketing Summit taking place today. The conference segment will explore search engine and portal marketing for mortgage companies, and trends and best practices in lead generation.

Real Estate Connect will include a pre-conference boot camp Wednesday morning where attendees will learn about new Internet search trends and how to maximize their online marketing dollars to reach targeted consumers.

Also today is the Innovator Awards Ceremony at 5 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom where this year’s coveted Inman Innovator Award winners will be revealed.

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