Intel wants to make the whole Web editable, just like a single Wikipedia page.
The chip giant on Tuesday will make a beta available ofIntel Mash Maker, a free browser extension that allows users to modify Web pages and combine information from different sources. Its first beta works with Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7, though at this point the features are far more mature in Firefox, Intel said.
The product, which originated in Intel's research labs, is similar to existing mash-up tools like Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly in that it has a graphical design tool.
What's different is that the actual mashing up of information on Intel Mash Maker happens on the client, rather than the server. So instead of making a different Web application to, say, plot real estate listings on Google Maps, Intel Mash Maker lets people add a widget that adds visualization to the real estate listing site.
The idea is that people can create their own customization to Web pages, either by copying existing widgets or customizing widgets to different Web pages. A person who has a widget that displays leg room on Expedia flight results can modify it for another travel site, for example.
"You're democratizing the process of customizing a Web site," said Robert Ennals, senior research at Intel Research and Mash Maker Architect.
Intel has created a number of widgets already. For example, a mash-up of Craigslist and Yelp lets people see reviews of stores in a listing's area and display that information on Google Maps.
The product was very much inspired by Greasemonkey, a Firefox extension that allows developers to change the display of information.
But Mash Maker is more secure, Ennals said. It's also accessible to end users as they surf the Web, and technically savvy people--not programmers--can create their own customizations with a visual tool.
"We're trying to change the nature of what the Internet is, where it's not a collection of pages, but a collection of information. And we want to allow users to collaboratively choose how they see that information," said Ennals.
He expects it to be used by consumers as well as business people who want to, say, display customer data on Web mapping service.
As someone who has played around with Yahoo Pipes, I can say that it looks a bit more approachable. Also, it appears pretty straight-forward to add an existing widget to a Web site, including Google Gadgets which are supported.
Why would Intel want to be in the business of giving away client-side browser extensions?
It doesn't necessarily sell more hardware but it does provide end users with a richer browser experience, said Jeff Klaus, marketing director for Intel Mash Maker, who admitted that the product is a bit of a departure for the company.
Although Mash Maker is not used explicitly for visualizations, the ability to display existing Web information does help drive demand for more powerful client hardware as well.
For more and a video demo, you can see an interview with Ennals below: