Quick Review:Ajax
Mashups: The new breed of web app

An introduction to mashups

Level: Introductory
Duane Mernll (, Writer, Freelance

08 Aug 2006
Updated 16 Oct 2006

Mashups are an exciting genre of interactive Web applications that draw upon content retrieved from external data sources to create entirely new and innovative services. They are a hallmark of the second generation of Web applications informally known as Web 2.0. This introductory article explores what it means to be a mashup, the different classes of popular mashups constructed today, and the enabling technologies that mashup developers leverage to create their applications. Additionally, you’ll see many of the emerging technical and social challenges that mashup developers face.


A new breed of Web-based data integration applications is sprouting up all across the Internet. Colloquially termed mashups, their popularity stems from the emphasis on interactive user participation and the monster-of-Frankenstein-like manner in which they aggregate and stitch together third-party data. The sprouting metaphor is a reasonable one; a mashup Web site is characterized by the way in which it spreads roots across the Web, drawing upon content and functionality retrieved from data sources that lay outside of its organizational boundaries.

This vague data-integration definition of a mashup certainly isn’t a rigorous one. A good insight as to what makes a mashup is to look at the etymology of the term: it was borrowed from the pop music scene, where a mashup is a new song that is mixed from the vocal and instrumental tracks from two different source songs (usually belonging to different genres). Like these “bastard pop” songs, a mashup is an unusual or innovative composition of content (often from unrelated data sources), made for human (rather than computerized) consumption.

So, what might a mashup look like?

The Web site is a great intuitive example of what’s called a mapping mashup. One of the first mashups to gain widespread popularity in the press, the Web site mashes crime data from the Chicago Police Department’s online database with cartography from Google Maps. Users can interact with the mashup site, such as instructing it to graphically display a map containing pushpins that reveal the details of all recent burglary crimes in South Chicago. The concept and the presentation are simple, and the composition of crime and map data is visually powerful. In Mashup genres, you’ll survey the popular genres of mashups, including mapping mashups. Related technologies overviews the technology landscape that relates to the construction and operation of mashups. Technical challenges and Social challenges present the eminent technical and social challenges, respectively, affecting mashups.

Mashup genres
In this section, I give a brief survey of the prominent mashup genres.

July 2008 | Java Jazz Up | 20
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29,

, 31, Download PDF