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

One of the biggest social issues facing mashup developers is the tradeoff between the protection of intellectual property and consumer privacy versus fair-use and the free flow of information. Unwitting content providers (targets of screen scraping), and even content providers who expose APIs to facilitate data retrieval might determine that their content is being used in a manner that they do not approve of. For a good review of Web aggregation and regulations, see


The mashup Web application genre is still in its infancy, with hobbyist developers who produce many mashups in their spare time. These developers might not be cognizant of (or concerned with) issues such as security. Additionally, content providers are only beginning to see the value in providing APIs for machine-based content access, and many do not consider them a core business focus. This combination can yield poor software quality, as priorities such as testing and quality assurance take the backseat to proof-of-concept and innovation. The community as a whole will have to work together to assemble open standards and reusable toolkits in order to facilitate mature software development processes.

Before mashups can make the transition from cool toys to sophisticated applications, much work will have to go into distilling robust standards, protocols, models, and toolkits. For this to happen, major software development industry leaders, content providers, and entrepreneurs will have to find value in mashups, which means viable business models. API providers will need to determine whether or not to charge for their content, and if so, how (for example, by subscription or by peruse). Perhaps they will provide varying levels of quality-of-service. Some marketplace providers, such as eBay or Amazon, might find that the free use of their APIs increases product movement. Mashup developers might look for an ad-based revenue model, or perhaps build interesting mashup applications with the goal of being acquired.


Mashups are certainly an exciting new genre of Web applications. The combination of data modeling technologies stemming from the Semantic Web domain and the maturation of loosely-coupled, service-oriented, platform-agnostic communication protocols is finally providing the infrastructure needed to start developing applications that can leverage and integrate the massive amount of information that is available on the Web. As mashup applications gain higher visibility, it will be interesting to see how the genre impacts social issues such as fair-use and intellectual property as well as other application domains that integrate data across organizational boundaries, such as grid computing and business-to-business workflow management.

For a deeper-dive into mashup development, stay tuned for the launching of a new series of tutorials on developerWorks that will teach you how to construct your own mashups. In fact, the series will even teach you how to use Semantic Web technology and ontologies to enable others to create their own mashups.

July 2008 | Java Jazz Up | 27
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