The goliaths of the Internet are dangling an ever-larger supply of bootstraps for folks who want to try new ideas for the Web.
The first case in point is Google App Engine, an infrastructure that lets people run their Web applications on Google's servers, for free up until certain limits are set. Second is Yahoo's BOSS (build your own search service) that lets people extract Yahoo search results, reorder them, and mix them with other content--also without constraint within certain limits.
On Monday, Yahoo programmer Vik Singh, who has been involved in the BOSS project, released software that lets those two projects work together. Specifically, he adapted a package called the BOSS Mashup Framework (BMF), which provides some pre-written tools to let programmers more easily use Yahoo search data via the BOSS interface, so it runs on Google's App Engine.
"Running BMF on top of Google App Engine is a seemingly natural progression, and quite arguably the easiest way to deploy Boss--so I spent today porting BMF to the GAE platform," Singh said on his blog.
Those tools, called a library, are written in the Python programming language that so far is App Engine's only native language.
Singh also built an example application: the Question-Answering Service. (Don't expect infallibility, but it does answer some questions correctly.) There was a day when this sort of thing, even this imperfect, would require a lot more resources than just a few dozen lines of source code. You'd have to assemble a lot of servers to index the Internet, analyze the results, process queries, and serve up results.
Another example Singh mentioned is called 4HourSearch, so named because it took four hours for programmer Sam Pullara to whip it together, according to his blog. The search site presents a Yahoo-powered interface that mirrors that of Cuil, a loudly trumpeted would-be Google slayer.