While the business world races to catch up with Web 2.0 applications like wikis, RSS feeds, and widgets, the 'next thing' is already here and starting to catch on fast: mashups.
'It's the next natural step of the Web,' says Jason Bloomberg, a senior analyst from Zapthink, an IT advisory firm based in Baltimore, Md.
Mashups are a hybrid genre of Web applications that borrow from two or more other Web applications or data sources and then literally mash them up into one unique application. For example, a company called Infopia has developed a mashup that eBay sellers can use combining the data from their online stores with the tools of Salesforce.com, such as customer relationship management (CRM), inventory management, and online performance analytics.
Anyone can do it
The beauty of the mashup is how easy it is to build them. It's basically a three-step process:
Mashups may be good for business
Like social networking sites and other Web 2.0 trends, it's consumers that tend to be the early adopters with the business community coming along eventually. The same seems to be true with mashups.
Some of the most publicized mashups include Weather Bonk, a mashup site that combines Yahoo! Traffic with Google Maps and various weather feeds that come up with one page featuring live traffic cams and a weather map customized by location. Another popular site is 1001 Secret Fishing Holes, a mashup of Google Maps with a variety of database feeds from sources like the National Park Service, campgrounds and wild life refuges.
However, it is the business realm where mashups will likely have their greatest impact. It's already starting to happen. Jason Bloomberg from Zapthink sees the following trends in business mashups:
Turbo charge your Web analytics
Another area business mashups are showing promise is in Web analytics for e-commerce sites. Mashups can be used to combine Web traffic data from your site with, for example, the marketing data feed from Dunn & Bradstreet, a leading provider of marketing, credit, and purchasing information. "By mashing up the two, you can look for trends like who visited your site, but didn't buy anything. You can also use mashups between Web analytics and mapping APIs to geographically plot your Web visitors,' says Braver.
Mashups and the IT department
Hybrid Web applications tailor made by the user? That sounds like the makings of a migraine for the IT department. Issues to be considered include security and integration with other applications on the company network, just for starters. However, most IT managers have already learned from the proliferation and easy access of Web 2.0 tools that they're fighting a losing battle retaining control of what online tools employees use.
Braver offers the following advice to antsy IT directors: 'Think of it as experimental. If the mashup proves beneficial to the business, then IT has a prototype to take and perfect.'