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Microsoft's Popfly: Mashup creation for the masses

Popfly, a hosted service built with Silverlight, lets people create embeddable widgets and mashups for their Web pages or blogs.

Microsoft on Friday morning launched Popfly, a service for creating mashup applications specifically designed for people who don't know how, or want to, write developer code.

The free service, which is now in private alpha, provides a visual way for constructing mashup applications and widgets which can be embedded in blogs or personal pages. Once a project is written, people can share and modify other people's mashups.

People can drag and drop icons that do things like display photos from Flickr in a photo gallery. Or they can combine these blocks to display photos tagged with the word "sunset" on the Virtual Earth mapping service.

Drop-down menus let people configure different Web services. If someone is comfortable writing JavaScript, XML or Silverlight code, the service lets you see the source and hack away.

There is also a tool for creating Web sites using templates and layout tools based on what Microsoft offers with Office Live, said Dan Fernandez, lead product manager for nonprofessional tools at Microsoft.

To service is built using Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in, which is now in beta. Microsoft will host 25MB of data.

The design surface of Popfly where people can connect blocks to build mashups. Microsoft

The idea behind the project, originally , was to bring programming concepts to untrained people without making them write code, said Fernandez.

There are already several do-it-yourself Web authoring tools and services for consumers and professionals. Google has a Google Maps mashup builder and Yahoo Pipes lets people combine RSS feeds to make an application. Ning is focused on letting people build social-networking sites.

In a demo, Popfly does look simple enough for someone without programmer expertise to use. The goal, said Fernandez, is to get millions of people creating applications and widgets, which will help drive demand for Silverlight and Microsoft's hosted Live services.