Thursday, February 23, 2006

fyi Don't Let Mashups Smash Up


Pointers to this that and the other:,1759,1921743,00.asp,1895,1929486,00.asp

Kobielus kommentary:

Eric Lundquist’s definition of “mashup” is a good enough launching point for what I’m about to say: “Blended applications, or mashups, are the hottest topic in application development. A mashup is usually a Web application built from many sources but combined into a seamless interface that provides a new user experience.”

Excuse me, Eric, but for the past several years this same definition, without modification, could have been applied to another trendy term: “portal.” It’s fairly close to one of my personal operating definitions for “portal”: a browser-accessible, server-based platform that aggregates links to and composes a new interface for interacting with content and functionality hosted elsewhere (OK—I just made up this unwieldy definition, but it’s sort of close to the shorter phrase I’m always wandering around mumbling). Is “mashup” just another example of this industry’s tendency to proliferate unnecessary new terms for still-valid older terms? What if anything is new that merits a new term?

If “mashup” has any new meaning (over and above “portal”), it refers to a growing trend under which Web applications are slapped together hastily from links to disparate services from diverse sources. It connotes a more ad-hoc, anarchic, slapdash, composite development approach than we normally associate with portals. “Seamless interface that provides a new user experience”? Ha! The term “mashup” comes from the hip-hop music world, and refers to a compositional approach under which heterogeneous audio is sampled and spliced from all over creation with all seams showing—syncopating your brain and body into rave overdrive. That’s what “mashup” actually connotes: user interface presented as funky compost, not as fussy composition.

There’s a place for everything, and I rather like a rhapsody, which is what a mashup is: a musical composition of irregular form having an improvisatory character ( So I chuckle to read Mary Jo Foley’s piece in Microsoft Watch: “Microsoft Business Apps Unit Readies New Web 2.0 Mashups.” The article says: “In December 2005, Microsoft posted to GoDotNet [Microsoft’s shared-source hosting site] a mashup of Dynamics 3.0 and MapPoint, its online mapping service. Such a mashup could allow customers to customize the Dynamics CRM contact form to show a MapPoint map displaying a contact’s address.”

Wait just a sec, Mary Jo. That doesn’t sound particularly heterogeneous, anarchic, or improvisatory: one vendor integrating software components from two of its existing product/services in order to extend/expand the functionality of both. Suddenly, mashup is treading on the semantic territory claimed by another familiar software industry term: feature enhancement.

Mashup is throwing its verbal weight around in the blogosphere too. Sandy Kemsley makes the following statement implying that mashup is now a synonym for SOA (service-oriented architecture): “To be fair, many IT departments need to put themselves in the position of both the API providers and the developers that I met at Mashup Camp, since they need to both wrap some of their own ugly old systems in some nicer interfaces and consume the resulting APIs in their own internal corporate mashups.”

“Wrap some of their own ugly old systems in some nicer interfaces…consume the resulting APIs”? You mean WSDL, SOAP, and the whole WS-* suite of standards, right? And, of course, where building portal-based mashups is concerned, WSRP as well, right? That’s SOA, pure and simple (er, it’s still complex, let’s not kid ourselves).

Is mashup simply SOA-based rapid application development, cobbling together “found external content” into a bold new synthesis in the presentation tier? A quasi-artistic endeavor? A semi-political faux-libertarian statement on the manifest destiny of “information needs to be free” and all that?

Or what?