The lumbering beast that is is slowly transforming itself and just like a snake, it’s shedding it’s skin – but can it really get rid itself of an overwhelmingly negative reputation in this industry?

I think it’s trying to, with some degree of success.

They’ve scored some small scale PR victories of late with initiatives like sponsoring the Danny and Nina blog (which, by the way, was interesting when they were trying to decide where to live – but has degenerated into a boring personal lifeblog…. count me among the unsubscribed).

Technologically, they’ve made the leap into Real Estate 2.0 recently by leveraging Microsoft’s Virtual Earth platform for its new search tools (see Virtual Earth, a developer blog : Now Using Virtual Earth).

They’ve done a pretty neat integration that’s light years ahead of where they used to be. They still default to a hierarchal list of properties in the search results which is annoying, though you can easily switch to a map view.

They’ve added custom icons on the map that when you roll over they display expandable links that give greater detail of the property, including a bird’s eye view (note to developers – doesn’t play nice in Firefox in Mac OSX though).

It’s a nice implementation, though personally, I like the Extate and Redfin approach of moving that information off the map and to a side panel – I think it makes for a cleaner search experience.

Then comes the news that they’ve pulled in a new president in from Yahoo! and that David Lereah, NAR Chief Economist, is joining the team too. (That should make the folks at David Lereah Watch pretty happy).

It looks like Allan Dalton’s cooking up something big with his $6 million stealth project and it should be interesting to see what it is when it’s finally released… By the way, anyone with any inside information, let me know – futureofrealestate [at]… anonymity guaranteed…

So can they execute on this transformation? I’m betting they can. There will be those who bear a grudge and they still have a long way to go to heal all old wounds. But the reality is they are a significant force to contend with and, even with all this new competition around them, just like any beast – they are the most dangerous when they’re backed into a corner.

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