No doubt it's partially due to the Etech conference but it's certainly an exciting week to be a mashup developer. The Web as a platform in its own right got a couple of significant boosts in the last few days as well as the usual round of additions and improvements.
Though the nascent world of mashups is just starting and its anybody's guess as to how significant it will ultimately become, the story looks more and more interesting as the tools really start to shape up. And more importantly, the number of high-quality, open APIs continues to flourish and that's where we start this story.
Yahoo! Continues To Turn Itself Into a Platform
On Monday, Yahoo! announced four new APIs on their Developer Network that programatically expose popular functionality normally available through a browser. These APIs include full-blown REST interfaces to their popular Photos, Shopping, Calendar, and My Web 2.0 online services, allowing others to build new commercial and non-commercial services based on them.
Yahoo! is quite interested in opening up their services to 3rd party innovation in general and these releases show they're taking the goal seriously. To help encourage discovery of the resulting work, Yahoo! has even released a public-facing mashup application gallery, complete with tag cloud, so that users can more easily locate what developers are creating with the APIs.
Interestingly however, some of these new APIs actually have rate limits that restrict their use to a certain number of requests per IP address. There has been some talk that rate limits on Web services prevent companies from building real business on top of what Yahoo! and others provide. To get to the bottom of this and why they have them, I talked for a bit this evening with Jeffrey McManus, director of the Yahoo! Developer Network, and asked him for the real scoop. He provided some excellent background:
- Rate limits prevent unfair consumption of the currently free APIs.
- Yahoo! is happy to work with commercial companies on a case-by-case basis for now (Rollyo for example.)
- The services and rate limits will continue to be refined as Yahoo! sees how the APIs get used.
- Limits are at the IP address level, which encourages creating client mashups as opposed to server-side mashups.
The Web Finally Gets a Clipboard
Microsoft's CTO Ray Ozzie has received a considerable press this week about his a simple Web-based clipboard mechanism, including some good coverage from ZDNet's Dan Farber, so I won't go into the details here. I will say that many folks are less than thrilled the Microsoft is driving key microformats for the Web and even pulling in their branding (Ozzie referred to the concept Live Clipboard), but there has been a vacuum here for years and they are filling it. I expect it will get pretty popular. See more details from Phil Wainewright here.
Turn Any Site Into An RSS Feed
The partial feed vs. full feed discussion is an endless debate and it ultimately turns into a question of control over your content. RSS is one of the crucial formats that's turning the Web into a reusable platform for content and services, yet RSS makes it all too easy for others to take what you created and repurpose it. This prevents the original content owner from gaining the benefit of the attention, advertising, and user draw that comes with publishing content. It's a tricky balance but the control is slowly slipping away from content owners. Services like Feed43 and FeedTier are emerging which can scrape any Web page and turn it into RSS, which can enable some serious copyright violation depending on whose website you're turning into a feed.
Enter the newly released FeedYes, which does something much fairer and safer. It can scrape a page and help you apply some rules to sort out the content. But FeedYes only extracts links from the page, driving the user back to the site if they find something interesting. While many users will want the whole content, and it won't solve the partial feed problem, at least you can see the latest from sites that don't have feeds at all, while still respecting the rights of the content owner.
Mashups For Business, Blended With Web 2.0 Software
Michael Arrington discussed earlier this week some of the recent salesforce.com AppExchange mashups that involve Writely and Skype. While Salesforce isn't exactly the poster child of the Web 2.0 crowd, their nearly 400,000 customers shows that the Web as Platform is serious business indeed. TechCrunch is also reporting that 40% of all requests to Salesforce comes in over their SOAP APIs from over 160 different applications built with Salesforce's open services, an impressive and significant percentage. AppExchange is a fascinating miniature mashup ecosystem and users can use it to browse, share, and use derivative on-demand applications. This is the leading edge of composite online software and it's quite a compelling model for the future, something I like to call the Global Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).