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Microsoft opens beta of Popfly mashup builder

The race for the best mashup builder picks up as Microsoft opens up Popfly at the Web 2.0 Summit.

Microsoft started an open beta program for its consumer-oriented mashup builder Popfly on Thursday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

Popfly is a hosted application that enables people to assemble mashups by dragging and dropping components, rather than writing code. It's built with Microsoft's Silverlight Web browser plug-in.

With Popfly, people assemble mashups by connecting blocks. Microsoft

When Microsoft released the alpha in May, it had prebuilt "blocks," or connections, to popular Web sites Flickr and MySpace.

Now it integrates with Facebook and people can create gadgets (also called widgets) that run on Windows Vista or Windows Live.

There are a growing number of these do-it-yourself Web authoring tools, including Google Mashup Editor and Yahoo Pipes. Here's a link to a review of three of those.

For business users, IBM has developed QEDWiki and Coghead, and other companies have created hosted application development services.