Mashups, Smashups

Mashups are one of the newest hot technologies, and an overflow crowd turned out to hear Darlene Fichter describe them and give us pointers to making them.  Not only was there not an empty seat in the presentation room or in the overflow room, but the crowd spilled out into the hallway where, fortunately, a monitor allowed everyone to see Darlene’s presentation.

Darlene pointed out that mashups are one of today’s fastest growing ecosystems on the Web, and because you don’t need to get anyone’s approval to use the APIs (Application Program Interfaces) from Google, Amazon, Yahoo,  etc., they have spread widely.  Now there are even simplified point-and-click systems making it easy and simple to create mashups.  Darlene likened mashups to Lego building blocks and said that "we are all builders building the skyscrapers of tomorrow.

She showed lots of examples; you can see them and the links to them on her slides which are posted on her blog. However, I thought some of the issues arising from mashups (there are always issues!) were very interesting.  Some of the social issues include questions about the "right to remix":  mashups mix content from more than one source.  Will the original owners have a problem with that?  They also make it more difficult to evaluate the validity of the site because you may not know the original sources of the data.  And there is always the potential for "malicious mischief", like changing every instance of a term on a web page (a company name, for example) to something much less flattering.  These issues will need to be carefully considered in the future.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator



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