When is Google like a potato?
Mash-ups? If this has anything to do with old people and their food I really don't want to hear it...
Very droll. Not at all, this is all about the growth in applications which mix - or 'mash-up' - the functionality of various online services to provide a new one.
Well there are thousands of examples but take something such as housingmaps.com. The service will take ads placed on US uber-listings site Craigslist and will mash them up with Google Maps to make the listings searchable on a map at the click of a button. Likewise there are services such as Flickrmap.com which, again, takes Google Maps but this time mashes it up with Flickr to produce a clickable map complete with galleries of photos taken in each location.
So it's basically a case of take Google Maps and mash it up with AN Other service?
Not at all, Google Maps is one of the most popular - possibly because it's one of the most practical - but the potential is there wherever metadata exists and wherever applications can be developed to mash up any number of services in any combination.
Alright then. Give me a 'for instance' which doesn't involve Google Maps.
You really don't believe me do you. Google certainly plays a major part - because of the way it bosses the internet. But it's not just the maps, it's also the search function. For example retail sites now mash up the fact Google can search for FedEx tracking codes to provide online order tracking for packages.
Still waiting for that non-Google example...
Take Skype then. There are many mash-ups out there which will take the names and addresses of people and organisations, stored in ways we once thought might be disparate silos of information, and allow you to place an IP phone call in just one click.
But isn't this all a bit 'consumer'?
Not at all. Mash-ups are coming to a business near you very soon. In fact it may already have happened.
Well according to Google - yes them again - business applications are dull. Just because somebody has put on a suit and gone into the office doesn't mean they want to be bored as soon as they start working. So some vendors are latching onto the idea that the hype surrounding mash-ups can be converted into real momentum around next-generation business apps.
Got any examples?
Why yes. Take a company like Salesforce.com, whose CEO Marc Benioff has been banging on about mash-ups for some time now. If you have a list of sales leads, or a contact database, it makes sense that you should be able to click on a name and see a Google Map of where that company is. Likewise you should be able to click on that name and place a Skype call, or send an email or instant message. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
So what's next then?
The rate of change is likely to be far greater as smaller teams work on small projects - forget your monstrous enterprise software; this is niche, targeted and highly usable as it relies on nothing more than a browser and the user's innate understanding of consumer websites.
Much of the development in the mash-up world will increasingly be in-house at ever-larger vendors, riding this bandwagon for their own ends.