Yahoo's Impresssive Pipes Already Clogged

Posted on February 8, 2007

Yahoo launched a new mashup tool called Yahoo Pipes earlier today. The instant popular of the service has Yahoo's Pipes already clogged according to a message on the site's homepage. Yahoo Pipes allows people to mashup data and feeds from different web services. O'Reilly Radar explains that one of the groundbreaking things about Yahoo Pipes is that it makes it easier for non-programmers to create mash-ups.

But perhaps more significantly, to develop a mashup, you already needed to be a programmer. Yahoo! Pipes is a first step towards changing all that, creating a programmable web for everyone.

Using the Pipes editor, you can fetch any data source via its RSS, Atom or other XML feed, extract the data you want, combine it with data from another source, apply various built-in filters (sort, unique (with the "ue" this time:-), count, truncate, union, join, as well as user-defined filters), and apply simple programming tools like for loops. In short, it's a good start on the Unix shell for mashups. It can extract dates and locations and what it considers to be "text entities." You can solicit user input and build URL lines to submit to sites. The drag and drop editor lets you view and construct your pipeline, inspecting the data at each step in the process. And of course, you can view and copy any existing pipes, just like you could with shell scripts and later, web pages.

O'Reilly also created a pipe that helps you find an apartment located near something like a park. Most of the early buzz about Pipes is very positive. However, Ars Technica writes that the process is still pretty complex and this could keep Pipes from becoming a hit.
Creating a new Pipe, however, is not for the wary. The mere volume of available options to both expand and narrow down hundreds (or thousands) of pieces of data, combined with the seemingly endless array of (sometimes rather ambiguous) input boxes for each and every module in the pipe, is likely to be daunting for the novice user. Therefore, the service is not likely to be something that the majority of Yahoo!'s everyday users are going to use, but more likely to attract the early-adopting, slightly more technical crowd.

Because of this, Pipes may take off among tech geeks and have enough meme power to remain in the collective consciousness for a while, but may not be able to become a hit trend anytime soon. Content publishers may also become wary of Pipes altering their relationship with the end user by allowing users to manipulate, reformat, and ultimately alter content as they so please. Mishmashing content from all around the web sounds like fun for the user, but some fear that it could decrease brand awareness and reduce webmasters' abilities to track content usage patterns.

Even if content publishers hold back some of the mishmashing and the complexity keeps most non-geek users off the Pipes there will probably still be some individual mashups created with Yahoo's new mashup tool that become popular.

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