August 16, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

From Web page to Web platform

What do you get if you cross Google Maps with an online gas-price tracker? A shift in the way the Web works.

The advent of the Web 10 years ago opened up vast banks of information to anyone with an Internet connection. Now, clever programming tricks that use data from public Web sites are letting developers mix up that information to suit consumers' particular needs.

Cheap Gas, a Google Maps-powered interface, is part of the phenomenon. Dozens of such nifty "mash up" programs, built by independent developers using tools provided by online businesses, provide services beyond those of the base sites.

News.context

What's new:
"Mash-ups" that let people combine information from different Web sites are reshaping the Web experience, allowing independent developers to better control and customize the information consumers can get.

Bottom line:
Experts predict Web site owners will increasingly resemble software companies: To generate traffic and sales, they will encourage add-on products and Web services.

More stories on APIs

They also portend big changes for site owners--at least, for those who want to take part in the next stage of the Web, called Web 2.0 by some. Instead of treating the Web just as a handy way to publish information, businesses need to start acting like software companies and encourage programmers to build services on top of their platforms, analysts say.

"The conclusion that many savvy Web presences had is very similar to what software companies have realized with open source: As creative as your organization may be, the community at large will always be more creative," RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady said.

By mimicking software companies and encouraging coders to build upon their data, Web site operators can give consumers more-tailored services--and themselves richer products.

Established Web companies have been onto the idea of wooing developers for some time. Amazon.com, for example, published its Web services APIs, or application programming interfaces, three years ago. Its annual report (see PDF) touts its "seller platform" for letting third-parties sell through its Web site, and it has regular software product releases.

At the same time, Google and Yahoo have been hiring luminaries in the software industry, such as well-known engineer Adam Bosworth, to help define how software services will be delivered over the Web.

Wild, wild Web ideas
Allowing individuals to play with their Web site data has resulted in programs that the companies might never have thought of. For example, Adrian Holovaty, a 24-year-old programmer, built a Web site called Chicagocrime.org that taps into Google Maps to display where crimes occur in Chicago.

Holovaty, whose day job was lead developer at the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper, said he wanted to provide a service to citizens of Chicago, and tackle a fun technical challenge. He spent about 40 hours on the job, spread out over a month of nights and weekends.

Another slick application, which taps into Amazon's book search service, is BookBurro which lets people compare book prices. This sort of Web service can be constructed pretty quickly: Instead of having to build a book search and e-commerce engine from scratch, one person can create something entirely new by combining Amazon's tool with other data sources.

Inviting third-party developers to build on top of a company Web site--much the way Microsoft woos outside programmers to its Windows operating system--creates a healthier business, advocates have argued.

eBay, for example, already gets more than 20 percent of its listings via programs created by outsiders to automate the auction giant's process. People can still use the regular eBay Web site to list items for sale, but the automated system enables sellers to move much higher volumes, said Greg Isaacs, the director of eBay's developer program. Isaacs noted that the program has mushroomed from 300 participants in 2003 to about 18,000 now.

"In the last two or three years, we've really seen working with developers as a competitive advantage," Isaacs said. "When I have to explain to management the importance of developers, it's very easy to do."

Mash-ups like these are emerging because a growing number of Web properties are releasing instructions, or APIs, on how to access their data. With these publicly available APIs--often published in standardized XML protocols--programmers get

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12 comments

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Business Models for Mashups are the Big Issue
Mashups are interesting hacking experiments for now. But site mashing crushes the first generation advertising business models (which is why GOOG and YHOO limit access). See <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://earlystagevc.typepad.com" target="_newWindow">http://earlystagevc.typepad.com</a> for a more detailed discussion.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
nice
I like your iddeas. I think that is usefull for me but not only.
keep working.
nice - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.boli-medicina.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.boli-medicina.com</a>
Posted by mess485 (3 comments )
Link Flag
A fine line between fair use and copy infringement
As a web developer I can tell you that web services like Google and Ebay are awesome, adding a little desktop or web software makes them better. That's great and all...

But, the key here is that these companies offer API's (Application Program Interfaces). Essentially tools and code to help a developer extract the data from the site that offers the API. This is fine as far as fair use go's, the companies are offering tools to take advantage of there data.

In the case of Grease Monkey , you are altering the site in way's that the site creators didn't intend for to happen.

Here in lies the fine line, user's have the ability to change a site that wasn't intended to be changed, therefore giving the user tools that essentially are baseless to use.

Now think though, Grease Monkey in still in Beta with a security issue. So now competitors can take advantage of grease monkey's code to essentially create advertisements for there own benefit, maybe GreaseMonkey already has EXTRA code to benefit them and advertisers in the way I just described.

Something to think about for those that check there bank accounts and credit card accounts online.

Justin

This
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yup
Not much of a surprise... nearly weeks after google announce their
maps feature, someone was already mashing it together with
craigslist to find apartments available an the map.


www.tigercompatible.com
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who Is Litigable?
Google maps are notoriously inaccurate. When a mashup sends the neighbors to hunt down a sex offender at the wrong address, who gets sued?

If I click on a subscription feed (the one-click advantage) and it downloads a virus, who gets sued?

Web 2.0 is the glaze over the crack.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Link Flag
Not much??
Not much of a surprise... nearly weeks after google announce their
maps feature, someone was already mashing it together with
craigslist to find apartments available an the map.??
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.boli-medicina.com/boli/index.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.boli-medicina.com/boli/index.php</a>
Posted by mess485 (3 comments )
Link Flag
It's great to see web services working...
The direction with web services is for applications to be created using them. You put multiple web services together and you can have a great application. The web, therefore, becomes a platform which, in the future, should enable really thin client devices to do great things despite their small size.

Who needs applications installed locally on the device if the best ones are available online? Who needs big storage on a device when the biggest storage services are available online? You see, the only thing limiting us now is the communication and security infrastructure. But it is easy to imagine we are heading towards that direction...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
big storage on a device
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/citroen_c1_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/citroen_c1_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
RSS
I still feel using RSS feeds to provide additional third party data and content is a lot more hassle that parsing XML WSDL files and the like to interact with other sites.

Marc
www.PropertyTalk.com
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
XML WSDL
XML WSDL files and the like to interact with other sites.
Ncie -
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.boli-medicina.com/alimentatie-dieta/index.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.boli-medicina.com/alimentatie-dieta/index.php</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.boli-medicina.com/alimentele/index.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.boli-medicina.com/alimentele/index.php</a>
Posted by mess485 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Inviting
Inviting third-party developers to build on top of a company Web site. Like: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.referatele.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.referatele.com</a>

Davisda
Posted by mess481 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice idea
Nice idea. Great article.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.preferatele.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.preferatele.com/</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.preferatele.com/index-referate-noi.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.preferatele.com/index-referate-noi.php</a>
Posted by preferatele12 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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