Yahoo! Pipes is a composition tool that was released in February 2007 (n.d.) designed to aggregate, manipulate and mashup data from around the internet (n.d). In short, you can pull in all sorts of data using all sorts of inputs, both user input or from a web source. It then uses a patching style programming interface (similar to desktop applications like Apple’s Quartz Composer and Cycling 74’s Max/MSP) to drag and drop components together.
Yahoo! Pipes was released in February 2007 in beta and was followed very closely in May of 2007 by Microsoft Popfly (n.d.) and also in May 2007, Google Mashup Editor was made available to a limited number of interested developers (2007).
All of these mashup applications provide the final mashup as open source, allowing it to be shared and built upon by other users except for Google Mashup Editor (that I can see, if this option is available, I would be happy to be corrected). Yahoo! Pipes offers a “Clone” option on every Pipe and Microsoft Popfly offered a “Rip” option.
Of these 3 mashup applications that appeared so close together, Yahoo! Pipes is the only one still in existence. Microsoft Popfly was shut down on August 24, 2009 (n.d.) and the majority of Microsoft references to it seem to have been removed. Even the popfly.com domain name now redirects simply to a Bing search for “popfly”. Around the same time, August 12 2009, Google Mashup Editor was discontinued and all mashups had to be migrated to their new platform, Google App Engine by that time (2009). Google App Engine was released in April of 2008 (n.d.) and became more focused around highly reliable, paid cloud application hosting (though a free option is available with limitations) than free mashup creating and supports the Python and Java programming languages. This makes it more of a competitor with Amazon’s Web Services and Microsofts Azure Services than Yahoo! Pipes.
I haven’t seen any direct comparisons, but from the research I have done in regards to these 3 platforms, Yahoo! Pipes does seem to be both the simplest platform, but also the most limited. Given that it is the only one of the 3 to have survived, it seems though that less functionality is better if it means the interface is easier to use and anyone can pick it up quickly and create a mashup in minutes.
The main implication of Yahoo! Pipes is that it makes it extremely easy to create combinations of content from various sources quickly and share it on numerous websites in a variety of different ways. This means just about anyone can build their own miniature web application based on RSS feeds, location data, Flickr images and more, doing away with the need to have it written from scratch, thus reducing end costs.
Potential Legal and Ethical Issues
The main legal and ethical issues I can see both revolve around the same thing, where the data is from and what it is used for.
The data could potentially be copyrighted, so using it could be a copyright violation. It could also be available under a Creative Commons license which means the mashup creator needs to be aware of it and ensure that their mashup meets the requirements of that license. In essence, the creator needs to be careful that they aren’t stealing data and using it in violation of the terms that the original creator made the data available.
It is easy to assume that an RSS feed for example is freely available, or that because there are Flickr modules built into Yahoo! Pipes that the use of photos retrieved from Flickr is ok, but the creator really needs to research these things to ensure that they are not doing something that could land them in hot water.
Yahoo! is currently in the process of rolling out the second version of their Pipe engine. The official announcement that it was available in beta version was made in June, 2010 and indicated a number of improvements, including functions that will put it more in competition with the Google App Engine including caching, stats tracking, quota management and support for scripting modules.
Whether there are plans to begin charging for the service or not are yet to be seen, but users can opt to use the V2 beta now, and to migrate existing Pipes to the beta, though they may not work precisely as they used to.
It seems Yahoo! found a recipe for success in Pipes V1 that their competitors did not, if they can maintain the simplicity heading into V2 while adding more complex functionality that allows advanced users to have more control and extend the system further, then it could just prove to continue it’s success. Whether it does compete with Google’s App Engine or not is yet to be seen, depending on how they implement scripting modules, but it does make for an interesting scenario if it can cater to both markets.
Tholome, E. (2009). Farewell to Mashup Editor. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://googlemashupeditor.blogspot.com/2009/07/farewell-to-mashup-editor.html
Google. (n.d.). Google App Engine. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://code.google.com/appengine/
Google. (n.d.). What is Google Mashup Editor? Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://code.google.com/gme/
McDonald, P. (2007). Mashups made easy. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://googlemashupeditor.blogspot.com/2007/05/mashups-made-easy.html
The Pipes Team. (2010). Yahoo! Pipes V2 engine. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://blog.pipes.yahoo.net/2010/06/09/yahoo-pipes-v2-engine/
Yahoo! Pipes. (n.d.). About Pipes. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Google App Engine. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_App_Engine
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Microsoft Popfly. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Popfly™
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Yahoo! Pipes. Retrieved April 4, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_Pipes
Note: This blog post is part of a series of blog posts that form assessment item #2 for INB347 – Web 2.0 Applications.