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October 06, 2005

The Roll-Your-Own Mash-up Challenge

By Charlene Li

I’m at Web 2.0, which is just a great conference. One of the hot discussions is around mash-ups (def) which combines the functionality from two different applications into a new one. One of the best ones is housingmaps.com, which combines apartment rentals etc., from Craig’s List and Google Maps.

To me, this is the next step in the “social computing”, Web 2.0, or whatever-you-call-it evolution. First, we had personalized content a la RSS-generated content on My Yahoo! At the same time, widgets, which are now hitting their stride, gave us our own customized set of applications on the desktop

The next step now is creating customized applications that can be paired with the content of our choice - yup, mash-ups. (I wrote about this previously in the context of widgets.) But to do that today, you have to know Javascript, Flash, and AJAX. I'm looking forward to the day when there will be simple interfaces into these APIs so that consumers like me (OK, I’ll admit, I’m a pretty geeky, techno consumer) can create our own mash-ups.

This is because I think we’re just at the very tip of the revolution. Imagine if we could tap into the collective creativity of thousands, millions of consumers. How many times have you said to your self, “Wouldn’t be nice if I could just….” And here’s the killer part – what if some built a platform for consumers to do this, and then enabled a way to SHARE those innovations? Some of them would float to the top (thanks to ratings, tagging, etc.) and you could actually start monetizing them. Now that’s tapping into the power of consumers!

So here’s my challenge – what mash-ups would YOU create? Add them to the comments below – I’m curious to see what all you bright minds can come up with!

Let me get the ball rolling. I’m right in the middle of buying a house (offer is on the table, fingers are crossed) and it was a nightmare flipping between the MLS, Google maps and MSN’s Virtual Earth for satellite photos, and Yahoo! Maps for directions (I use their send to phone feature). At this point, let’s make it VERY simple – I just want to take a few of the addresses and plot them on a satellite map to compare their locations. Virtual Earth allows me to do this using their ScratchPad feature, but it was pretty cumbersome. Give me a form-based interface where I can input the addresses and generate a map. The next step would be the incorporation of GeoRSS tags that understand addresses, rather than longitude and latitude. One application – importing my kids’ school directory and plotting the location of their friends so that I can easily organize play dates.

So it’s your turn – what mash-ups can you come up with?


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» What's So Great About Ning? from Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life
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Charlene Li of Forrester has an idea similar to the one I wrote about a couple of days ago. I was talking specifically about Google becoming a platform. I also only thought of technology developers being able to post their [Read More]


Scott Weisbrod

Hi Charlene,

As I'm sure you're aware, Marc Andreessen's latest company just launched Ning.com; likely the first online service for building social applications.

Any thoughts on this?


Marnie Webb

I'd love to see a maps mashup that shows pollution data on top of the satellite images.

Eric Griffin

Hi Charlene,

I've got one.

We've created a blog client that integrates all the Web 2.0 services bloggers use every day like Technorati, Google Blog Search, Del.lico.us, Furl, Bloglines etc... in one place and allow you to drag and drop content from those services into your blog post.

Steve Smith

I'd like to see an "illustrated" globe that's public access - with location search based on a ClickRank system and tags so that I can find great pictures based on my context (work, vacation, education, etc.)

Ranjit Mathoda

I know your frustration with the wretched MLS interface. An interesting alternative I found recently is http://www.trulia.com/ but it still isn't complete...need all the MLS listings...


I've been writing about this on AkuAku for a few months now. I believe that allowing consumers to create their own webapps and enabling them to mash them up is going to be a big trend in the coming year. I call these types of services Blank White Servers, see http://akuaku.org/archives/2005/09/blank_white_ser.shtml

Louis Columbus


First, thanks for all the effort you put into your blog, I am getting a great education from your work.

Mash-ups for selecting service providers for your home would be incredibly useful. Imagine being able to find general contractors, overlay their contractor status, and their BBB ratings, then a secondary mapping of their references. You could not only ascertain how credible their references were, if the contractor did great work in a specific neighborhood and just tanked in others, and in short analyze how their performance varied by type of home (given the neighborhood variations)across your city.
From the manufacturers' perspective the focus on optimizing service calls and routes is obvious. Mash-ups would generate solid margins from service strategies as many manufacturers generate more revenue from their installed base than new customers.

Dave McClure

hi Charlene -

great summary. hope you got a chance to check our panel workshop on Business Models for Mashups at the Web 2.0 conference -- if not, here's a link to the presentation we gave along with some mashup links:

ps - great to meet with you last week :)

- dave mcclure

Richard Lusk

Hi Charlene,

Here is the Real Estate Mashup I mentioned to you at the Web 2.0 dinner.

I really like it.


BTW, Did you get the house?

Richard Lusk


I would like to see a map that overlays housing prices and changes over the last year

Simon Andrews

For once the UK seems to be out in front - take a look at this mash up - great way of looking for property (keep zooming in until you see the red houses)


Simon Andrews
Big Picture

Kip Meacham


Chris Pirillo's newest brainchild called gada.be (http://gada.be) is a really interesting, on-the-fly style mash-up. It was just launched last week, and I have already used it dozens of times from my Treo. (See my post about it at: http://rsspundit.blogspot.com/2005/10/you-are-there-gadabe-is-born.html)

The possibilities for innovation are really all over!

Kip Meacham

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