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

With Intel's new browser extensions, you don't have to be a programmer to mix and match data from multiple Web sources to your liking.

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 extensions lets even non-technical users create their own custom mashups.

Although Mash Maker team leader Robert Ennals has been blogging about the Firefox version for some time, Intel is announcing Internet Explorer support Tuesday as the Web 2.0 Expo kicks off at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Intel describes the extensions as technology previews, available by invitation only; to get an invitation, you must sign up for an account on the Mash Maker 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 Note 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's 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

Mash Maker maintains a library of Widgets, which somewhat technically-minded users can write using Mash Maker's Widget API; any Google Gadget, for example, can be used in a Mash Maker Widget.

The Widgets don't just indicate the source of the mashup data but 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 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 Note Widget, for example, can appear alongside each individual item on a list.

As users use Widgets to create mashups, 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.

This story, "Intel's Mash Maker: Mashups for the Rest of Us" was originally published by PCWorld.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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