SETTING THE SPARK
Fair bit of deserved buzz and excitement on Techmeme this morning around Yahoo!'s announcement of Pipes, an erector-set of sorts for RSS feeds on the web.
It's the sort of thing many of us wished someone would invent. What is it exactly and why is it important? Nik Cubrilovic at TechCrunch does a good job describing how to think about it:
"It takes effort to explain the significance of a new product when the immediate benefit to consumers may not be so obvious, and the awkwardly named “pipes” from Yahoo! is no exception.
The product name is taken from the world of UNIX where a pipe is a conduit for the transfer of data between applications, while with the Yahoo product it is a conduit for data between web services. In a basic form Yahoo! Pipes allows you to take data from one or more sources and to bring it together, for example - to aggregate a group of feeds."
There are some other good posts that further elaborate on why this is cool, including this one by Anil Dash (Six Apart), one here by Tim O'Reilly, Jeremy Zawodny (Yahoo!), by Matt Cutts (Google) and Dave Winer, who blazed the RSS trail for the rest of us.
If you still don't get it, that's OK.
Just think about today as a great day for geeks to get excited about how to take today's web services in new directions.
Whether it's directly through this thing called Pipes by Yahoo!, or something entirely different that was inspired by it, we're likely to see some interesting new services in coming months that produce meaningful payoffs for mainstream users.
As excited I am about this morning's announcement, I'm still reminded of the title of a great post by Bill Burnham in the fall of 2005, "RSS: Geeks Only Please"
As useful and adopted RSS feeds have become over the last couple of years, they're still not mainstream from a Main Street, USA point of view.
Here's hoping that innovations like Yahoo! Pipes helps make this stuff more useful for the rest of us.
Services like Netvibes, that Walter Mossberg reviewed recently are a step in that direction. More innovative plumbing like Yahoo! Pipes can hopefully accelerate RSS becoming more useful behind the scenes for mainstream applications.
May we'll see a post by someone titled "RSS: Geeks Need Not Apply", sometime by the end of the decade.