The Evolution of Mashup Development – From Hacking to Assembling


The current trends are more that business users gets more abilities to solve their own problems and for programmers to give the business users the tools to do so. There are some tools like this already that are very popular (see Explaining Enterprise Mashups), but we have only seen the start of this development. These trends will change the roles for both programmers and business users in fundamental ways and it is interesting to see how that could play out. This is one likely scenario of what will happen during the next couple of years.

Programmers were building applications and integrations by programming. There were very little finished modules to reuse and combine, so a lot of logic had to be written from scratch (most talk about code reuse is nothing but talk). This was not only Mainframes and Cobol, but also a lot of Java, C++ on Windows and Solaris etc.


Programmers building applications using ready made modules. These modules might be full applications, libraries or, in some cases, widgets. This means that less logic needs to be written from scratch (Apache Jakarta projects have changed the lifes of most Java programmers for example).

In 1-3 years (early adopter geeks today)
Programmers and early adopter business users are assembling solutions using ready made components. These solutions are called mashups today, but are probably not going to have that name in a few years, instead the “mashup style” of solution development are going to have become mainstream and be a natural part of applications (just see how mashups are built with Facebook Applications today). The components are widgets that have been developed by programmers to function as building blocks in bigger solutions.

In 3+ years
Business users are assembling solutions, programmers are building widgets.

From Hacking to Assembling
Of course there will always be programmers that are programming low level solutions like kernels and compilers (at least those are low level to me) and business users that just want their problems solved without them having to deal with any technology. But overall the focus for programmers will go from building the solution to building the building blocks (aka widgets). For business users the focus will go from waiting for a program that solves their problem to be developed to being able to assemble a solution (aka mashup) that will address their problem. Overall the focus will move from hacking to assembling.

Great Tools for Business Users Needed
This means that business users need to be more aware of what building blocks are available. Currently there are a few early attempts to develop systems to handle this – IBM’s Mashup Hub is a good example. Furthermore there is a need for easy to use systems for business users to combine all those widgets. This is probably the hottest area in mashups right now, with everyone wanting to be in on this – BEA Pages, IBM QEDWiki, PageFlakes and iGoogle to just mention a few. But so far it has been with very limited success and just a little more than proofs of concepts or cool AJAX playgrounds. Let’s see what will happen in 2008, I for one if looking forward to seeing new cool innovative solutions to these problems.

Paranoia around Google Knol


The blogosphere and the twittersphere (is that a real word yet?) are going crazy around Google Knol, mostly it is FOG (= Fear Of Google) and paranoia. I do not see much difference between what Google have been doing for years and what they will be doing with Knol.

What is Google Knol?
Google Knol will allow you to write an article about a specific subject. Google will host the article and hightlight it when somebody search for releated keywords in their search engine. If there are several related Knol’s then the users will help rank them and in that way provide quality assurance. The writers of a Knol have the option to get a share (50% is the speculation) on all advertising revenue Google makes from the article.

Read more about Google Knol in the Official Google Blog, Read/Write Web or TechCrunch.

Why the Paranoia?
The paranoia around Knol is that Google will kill Squidoo (whatever) and Wikipedia (yeah, right) by rolling over them with their user base and Mr. Burns-like piles of cash. The irony is that by doing all the complaining about Knol the blogosphere are once again giving Google lot’s of free publicity. I agree that it is a bit sad that Google can kill off complete ecosystems of startups just by releasing a semi-done project to their gigantic user base, but sorry to say that is the name of the game. Microsoft did the same for years, and before that it was IBM. Even Saint Jobs at Apple does this. It is nothing specific to the internet industry either. The key is that in the Web 2.0 world it is possible for startups to move and innovate smarter and quicker than the big boys, so if Squidoo and Wikipedia do not adapt and join the deadpool because of that then all I can say is R.I.P.

Another big reason for all the writing about Knol is of course that posts about Google gets a lot of attention and traffic, and thus make more money to the writer via Google AdSense.

Knol is just an extension to what Google is doing already
Google is already based on user generated content. Even their revolutionary Page Rank algorithm is based on user generated content. Think about it – every time you make a hyperlink to a page you tell Google that this page is a little bit more important than before and that it probably has something to do with the page you link from. If you make money from your page it is very likely that you do that via Google AdSense, so Google is already paying you for your content.

For Knol Google will host the content themselves, and that is basically the only difference. The content is still user generated and you can still make money on the content via Google. The only thing you really need to be aware of when adding content to Knol is that Google and not you will own that content, but other than that I see no reason for the paranoia.

First mover advantage
While the still unreleased Knol gets hyped I suggest that you start writing some Knol articles about your area of expertise to be ready to add them to Knol ASAP when it launches. Of course you need to give the article an angle that promotes you and your site. Since you will be one of the first Knol’s out there you might use this to get more traffic. Another good SEO tool.

Update: Read this very interesting article from TechCrunch analyzing Google Knol