in All Posts, APIs/Mashups, Web

Grow up, Mashup!

Is 2006 the Year of the Mashup? I think not. Mashups are at the stage that DHTML was at before it matured into Web 2.0 – lots of bells and whistles, but little real meat. 2006 will see people acclimatise themselves to the principles and technology, and maybe the best thought out mashups will become established. But it will be 2007 that will truly be the Year of the Mashup.

Programmableweb.com currently tracks 979 mashups, and 269 APIs, and shows a rate of 2.7 new mashups per day, so mashups are obviously very popular, so what’s the problem?

Who uses them?

How many mashups do you use, on average, everyday? How many of these were to actually achieve something (entertainment counts) and not just exploring what was out there? Now, as the sort of person reading this blog, you’re answer is likely much higher than the general internet populace; their answer is very likely zero.

The fact is: most people don’t know know what a mashup is (not that they need to to use one), don’t ever use them, and don’t know to look for them.

The use of APIs has become very well established, and many people are interacting with Google Map, Amazon Affiliate Stores, and Flickr streams as they browse the web, going about their business. APIs are mature and being used in creative, and most importantly powerful & useful ways.

Grow up, Mashup!

Mashups are yet to achieve the same level of maturity; they are very cool, a lot of fun and some are useful (especially in niche areas). However, I believe that 2007 will see mashups become mainstream; they will travel the path that DHTML travelled to become Web 2.0. They will shed their glamour and glitz, stop trying to show off with party tricks, and they will start to become incredibly powerful tools.

The large, and ever growing, streams of data provided by APIs can only go one route: tying the data together to improve and refine the way we get things done. We are already seeing people playing with this concept, but the unwashed masses of the internet are yet to reaps the benefits. What’s going to change this?

What did you do today?

While there are some mashups out there now which will become more established, and whose use will become widespread, there still seems to be very few of any real use. I don’t use any mashups, because there is nothing I want to do where a mashup provides an easier way to do something.

Normally any ‘problem’ they ‘solve’ (matching news to a location on a map) is something I can do myself without the overhead and complexity (read the news story).

Learning from the past.

DHTML used to make pigeons fly round the screen as they followed my cursor, would make page elements jump around, my window wiggle and lots of other silly things to show off, while it was also doing something useful (i.e showing me the shipping address area once I said I wanted to ship elsewhere) which largely went unnoticed.

Mashups are the same – they do solve a problem, but they have a lot of stuff I simply don’t need going on. What we need are mashlets, smaller version of the same things, that solve our problem while staying out of our way. Ideally they would be integrated into my workflow (webmail, CMS, blog, host website, or desktop applications) to be there when I needed data combined to assist me.

My webmail may be able to map an invitation I’ve received, or otherwise use a microformat attachment that has arrived. Lastminute.com might show me a map of geo-coded photos when I am looking at holiday locations. Maybe my address book will allow me to Interfax a map of directions from a contacts location to mine for a meeting? There is a veritable plethora of possibilities.

Where next?

Mashups are here to stay, whatever form or name they end up taking. Maybe my idea of mashlets will make it, maybe not. In all likelihood there will be some large scale mashups that become established and popular. But one things is sure, mashups need to grow up before they grow out.

Where do you see mashups going? What mashups do you think will be going strong this time next year?

[tags]mashups,mashup, Web 2.0, Web-Services[/tags]

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  1. A good article, and one I’m in agreement with…. there may be a million and one mashups out there, but off the top of my head, I can’t really think of one which I use!

    Of course, the ones we all use are quite subtle… like for instance the embedded Google Map on website X, or the Flickr integration of website Y – that is the primary future which I see, API’s being leveraged more and more to add functionality to websites (rather than API’s being used to produce a completely new mashups). As you say, many of these API’s solve specific problems and thats where we will see them being used.

    There is other value in Mashups – they let you compare wildly different data-sets, and sometimes they surprise you (Note to Yahoo: when are you going to be releasing Astronewsology? ;)), but sadly, unless it makes things much more useful, the web going majority probably won’t bat an eyelid.

    Interesting that you brought up microformats, as I was thinking the exact same thing. I don’t see a situation where your all of the core applications on your desktop will be integrated, or mashed up togteher, but that is where I see microformats coming in. They are a bridge between applications. At the minute, I can click a button in Safari and all the hCards on a page are automagically imported into Address Book and they allow data to be defined at this semantic level, so that it can easilly be accessed. Of course the big challenge comes in getting more people to use them, but I can see microformats becoming something as big as RSS…

  2. Chris – a good point about microformats, and core applications never being fully integrated. Every person has a different set of core applications, normally from multiple vendors, and microformats provide a brilliant method for them to communicate.

    It is this exact sort of communication that could really be exploited as one of the ways to offer mashups that are integrated into our workflow (as well as other inter-application communications).

    You (and I) are lucky to already be enjoying it to any degree, with your example regarding Safari and Address Book – it is an advantage of having many apps from the same vendor. I’m not sure what the situation on the PC is currently?