Yahoo Tests RSS Mashup Creator for the Masses

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Yahoo Inc. has launched a service called Pipes designed to let regular users mix different RSS and Atom feeds and create data "mashups," a process that so far has required programming knowledge.

Pipes features a drag-and-drop interface that the company hopes non-technical users will find simple and intuitive as they manipulate content syndication feeds to combine data in new and useful ways.

An example of a Pipe is this one, which meshes listings from Craigslist with data from Yahoo's local search engine to display apartments for rent near any business, Yahoo said.

Another one collates news about topics chosen by the user from a variety of sources.

"Pipes' initial set of modules lets you assemble personalized information sources out of existing Web services and data feeds. Pipes outputs standard RSS 2.0, so you can subscribe to and read your pipes in your favorite aggregator. You can also create pipes that accept user input and run them on our servers as a kind of miniature Web application," reads Yahoo's description of the service, posted Wednesday night.

While Pipes today lets users mix data from RSS and Atom feeds, Yahoo hopes to extend the service to support other data formats, Web services, processing modules and output renderings, Yahoo said. For example, Yahoo will open up access to the Pipes engine to programmers and add support for the KML data source, which is used to display geographic data in Google Inc.'s popular Google Earth mapping application and Google Maps Web site.

The initial response from observers has been enthusiastic. "Yahoo's new Pipes service is a milestone in the history of the Internet," Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of computer book publisher O'Reilly Media Inc., wrote on his blog. "While it's still a bit rough around the edges, it has enormous promise in turning the Web into a programmable environment for everyone."

The Pipes Web site, available throughout this morning, was nonetheless down at press time, displaying the message: "Our Pipes are clogged! We've called the plumbers!"

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