Intel's Mash Maker: Mashups for the Rest of Us

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Mashups--aggregations of Web data--can make useful sites even more so, but up to now you had to be a Web developer or programmer to create them. Intel's Mash Maker browser extension lets even nontechnical users create their own custom mashups.

Although Mash Maker team leader Robert Ennals has been blogging about the Firefox version for some time, access up to now has been via invitation only. Today, however, as the Web 2.0 Expo kicks off at San Francisco's Moscone Center, Intel made free public betas available for both Internet Explorer (version 7) and Firefox (versions 1.X, 2.X, and 3.X on Windows, and version 1.X on Mac OS Leopard or Tiger). To download a beta, you must sign up for an account on the Mash Maker site.

In this Intel Mash Maker mashup, a Google Maps widget has been applied to map the location of restaurants on the OpenTable.com restaurant reservation Web site.
Mash Maker has several components, many of them based on community input. You create mashups by applying widgets--mini applications that create a customizable user interface to Web data--to sites you visit. For example, a notes widget lets you create notes for any site that has a list of entries; a Google Maps widget will display maps as you click on Open Table restaurants or Craigslist rental listings. Such sites may already have links that let you click through to a map, but with Mash Maker you can display the map while you're still on the original site.

Widgets and Gadgets

While Mash Maker maintains a library of widgets, users who are somewhat technically minded can write their own widget with Mash Maker's Widget API; any Google Gadget, for example, can be used in a Mash Maker widget.

Mash Maker lets you place notes (using a notes widget) right alongside individual Hotels.com entries.
The widgets don't just indicate the source of the mashup data but let you handle the way it is displayed. For many mashups, especially those involving large images, the visualization appears on top of the page you're visiting (in the OpenTable.com example, the map appears on top of the listings). But where it makes sense, you can place the data on the page: Notes created using the notes widget, for instance, can appear alongside each individual item on a list.

As users create mashups with widgets, these become new widgets that other Mash Maker users can apply.

You don't have to create widgets; as you visit a site, the extension checks Mash Maker's database to suggest widgets that you might wish to apply based on the type of data on the page. The proposed widgets appear in a Mash Maker toolbar, and you apply the widget (or remove it) simply by clicking on it.

Don't see what you want? The extension also includes an Extractor Editor that you can apply to any site to help identify its data; this information, too, is transmitted to Mash Maker servers to help elicit suggestions, and also to inform other Mash Maker account holders.

Intel's Mash Maker FAQ states that the company does not share individual Mash Maker users' browsing information. But the company does collect it to see what mashups users favor for various sites and data types.

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