SAN FRANCISCO — The craigslist online community in a slight twist from past years received a special Inman Innovator Award for “Innovator of the Year” during Inman News’ Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco this week.

The Innovator Awards honor forward-thinking technologies, Web services, business models and innovators in online real estate, brokerage and media companies.

Craigslist was launched by Craig Newmark in San Francisco in 1995. The local classifieds and forums site began in San Francisco and has expanded to 450 cities worldwide. Along with its successful geographic expansion, the craigslist community has grown exponentially, becoming influential in the real estate vertical in many metropolitan cities.

In New York, for example, craigslist has helped a lot of buyers and renters find homes.

Newmark founded the company and now serves as the chief customer service representative. Jim Buckmaster serves as craigslist’s president, chief executive officer, chief financial officer and programmer.

Past recipients of the Innovator of the Year Award include Mark Lesswing, chief technology officer and senior vice president of the National Association of Realtors, in 2006; Prudential Real Estate Affiliates President Earl Lee in 2005; and HouseValues CEO Ian Morris in 2004.

Inman News today also gave an award for the Most Innovative Real Estate Blog to Rachel Dollar, who publishes the Mortgage Fraud Blog, a blog she launched in 2004 to keep track of real estate and mortgage fraud schemes, indictments and prevention tactics. Dollar is an attorney and certified mortgage banker who handles fraud recovery litigation for lenders and secondary market investors nationwide.

Other finalists in the blog category were 3 Oceans Real Estate, Bloodhound Blog, Calculated Risk, Patrick.net, Real Estate Competition and the Law, Real Estate Tomato, Redfin’s Sweet Digs blogs, and Transparent Real Estate.

Inman Innovator Awards were handed out Friday in four additional categories, including Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise, which went to Coldwell Banker. The company has launched a number of innovative initiatives in the last few years, including building a consumer-facing online video library, a desktop search widget and being the first major real estate brokerage company to set up shop in the online virtual game Second Life.

The other finalists in the brokerage and franchise category were @Properties, the Corcoran Group, Foxtons, Iggys House, John L. Scott Real Estate and Real Living.

San Francisco-based vFlyer captured the award for Most Innovative Web Service. The company allows home sellers, agents and brokers to customize online ads, print or e-mail property fliers, send out these ads to a variety of property-search portals, and view detailed metrics on traffic to those ads. VFlyer is constantly releasing new marketing tools for agents, including widgets that display their listings and most recently, a tool that can quickly enhance property photos.

Other finalists in the Web service category included Cyberhomes, the Houston Association of Realtors’ HAR.com, HUD’s Neighborhood Watch Center, the Federal Trade Commission’s Competition in Real Estate Web resource, Point2 Technologies’ National Listing Service, Trulia Voices, Wellcomemat and Zillow’s Q&A platform.

The award for Most Innovative Technology went to Altos Research for its AltosCharts widgets, which enable Web site owners to display real estate market statistics on their sites through an embeddable visual graph of recent market activity.

Other finalists in the technology category were Google Street View, Jott, Meebo, MyBlogLog, RealTech, Talkshoe and Xpressdocs.

The award for Most Innovative Media Site went to ActiveRain Real Estate Network, the largest online social networking site for real estate practitioners. Launched a little over a year ago, ActiveRain had grown its membership to more than 30,000 individuals working in the real estate industry. The site represents a new era of real estate media in which more and more participants create the content and conversations being published online.

Other finalists in the media category included the “60 Minutes” Multimedia Article/Segment site, Business Week’s hot Properties, Curbed.com’s real estate network, New York Times’ Real Estate Site, and the Wall Street Journal‘s RealEstateJournal.com.

2007 INMAN INNOVATOR AWARD WINNERS

Innovator of the Year: The craigslist community

Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise: Coldwell Banker

Most Innovative Blog: Mortgage Fraud Blog

Most Innovative Web Service: vFlyer

Most Innovative Technology: AltosCharts widget

Most Innovative Media Site: ActiveRain

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