Yahoo Pipes brings mashups to the masses

Yahoo Pipes is aiming to be to Web mash-ups what Microsoft Access was to relational databases. Prior to Access, relational databases were primarily the domain of the highly trained database administrator and software programmer. Microsoft Access significantly changed the game by providing a relatively powerful database experience in a manner that the mainstream audience could comprehend and be productive with. As a consequence the business world is now saturated with mission critical Access databases put together internally by the employees themselves to meet a set of data challenges unique to that particular company or department. With Pipes, Yahoo is attempting to become the Microsoft Access of the Web 2.0 market space.

Yahoo Pipes hit the Internet with a splash little more than a week ago. At its heart it is a GUI which enables inexperienced users to perform operations on an infinite number of RSS feeds (and a few select websites). The service does not do anything that a software programmer cannot do already; in fact even slightly experienced programmers can do things more efficiently and with greater flexibility when not using Pipes. Fortunately Yahoo Pipes, like Microsoft Access, it is not aimed at the developer market. Instead its target audience is the overwhelming majority of people out there that do not know anything about programming but do know they have a data problem and a potential solution.

For example say you are a stock broker and you are interested in news articles related to certain stock, how do you find this information? The 'old fashioned way' would be to scan the various news sites, but this takes a lot of time. A contemporary solution maybe to subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds from those news sites and keep track of everything on one screen. But even with this approach there is still a lot of on-screen chaff plus sharing this information with others in your business is difficult. Yahoo Pipes enables you to aggregate these news feeds, filter out articles that don't deal with the businesses you are not interested in and then generate a new RSS feed that can be subscribed to by yourself or colleagues. If you think this all sounds too good to be true then checkout this Pipes creation which does exactly what is described.

Sure it is not rocket science but the easy to use interface means that undertaking these mundane tasks is now within the grasp of the interested parties themselves and not confined to software developers. Inexperienced users are helped even more by the fact all Pipes creations are searchable and can be cloned. This means if you are not sure how to solve a problem you can look around to find someone who has solved a similar one and literally copy off them. This conceptual 'open source' is not only a boon for new users but I am sure it will drive lots of talented people to do some really inventive stuff just for the publicity and kudos from other Pipes users.

Yahoo Pipes sure is interesting from a capability perspective but whether it gains widespread business adoption like Microsoft Access is another question. The difference between Pipes and Access is that Access deals primarily with data owned and understood by the user whilst Pipes draws its data from the Web. Consequently not as many applications spring to mind when thinking about generic Web data compared to the well defined internal business data present in most Access databases. Where something like Pipes may begin to gain traction is in the field of linking and making sense of multiple internal data sources, for example a businesses' CRM (i.e. and its financial system. The only problem in this field is that privacy comes to the fore and the idea of having an external Yahoo service access and aggregate sensitive business information would go down faster than a lead balloon in most workplaces. What this could mean is that in order for Yahoo Pipes to really take off in a business sense it may have to manifest itself as a standalone device along similar lines as the Google Search Appliance. This would enable businesses to harness the power of Pipes whilst maintaining their privacy and preserving ownership of the data. Who knows, maybe in a few years you may have a server rack half full of Google and Yahoo appliances....