/ From Yahoo! Pipes to the “next big thing” on the web

There are a growing number of startups vying for your attention. Each offering a new service–or an old one rehashed–that they believe you should sign up for. A lot of the services are free and quite useful in their own right, though I strongly suspect that the abandonment rate of these services is proportionally creeping higher the more of them come online.

The reason for this of course is very simple. You only have so much attention to give to any one service before you have to get on with the rest of your life. The more services you subscribe to, the more you’re going to have to split your attention across the sum of them. This phenomenon is similar to what happened with visiting websites back in the 90s. Back then the only mechanism we had to keep ourselves on top of what was going on at our favourite sites was to visit them periodically. But with a hundred or so bookmarks, visiting each one daily became a real hassle, if not completely impossible. A novel solution to this problem came along in the form of RSS feeds, now known simply as feeds. This allowed a computer to do the visiting for you and present you with a single, central, updated list of everything that was going on.

Though feeds are great for keeping on top of our favourite sites, the increasing push toward the web as a platform is quickly bringing with it more complicated scenarios. Take for example twitter. It’s a sort of hybrid between chatting and blogging, and it’s addictive. But now I’m checking my email, my feeds and twitter throughout the day. To say nothing of trying to manage my calendar, todo list and photos. In order to do this today, I need to have about as many windows (tabs) open and jump between them whenever I want to check on or update one of the services. But jumping from window to window, or tab to tab, is impractical, cumbersome and tedious. What’s more, a lot of the data I use in one service often needs to be reentered into another.

In order to solve this dilemma of services, the web development community has begun exposing APIs that allow us to interact with our data without actually visiting their sites. The trouble with APIs however, is that unless you’re a programmer, an API is pretty much useless to you. So broad based use of APIs is limited to the ability and creativity of the programmers who use them. Enter Yahoo! Pipes.

Yahoo! Pipes is a unique service that allows someone who isn’t a programmer to take feeds, manipulate them, throw them together and output the result into a new feed of their own–without writing any code! This sort of thing is the future, and whoever pioneers this–and figures out how to monetize it–will have a massive leg up on the competition. Imagine being able to use Flickr, Google Reader, Twitter and a bunch of other services of your choosing in a custom built application that’s tailored to your exact specifications without ever programming one line of code. All talking to each other, all on one page (or device, or platform of your choosing), built for you, by you.

Where reading feeds is unidirectional, APIs are bidirectional. Where Yahoo! Pipes allows you to mash up feeds, the market leader of the future will allow you to mash up APIs.


Read more from the archive.