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Piping in with Yahoo Pipes mashup builder

Beta Web service called Yahoo Pipes is for visually building mashups around RSS and Atom feeds.

Ever think that we're just scratching the surface when it comes to mashing up Web data feeds? Yahoo apparently thinks so, too.

On Wednesday, the Web giant released a beta of Yahoo Pipes, a hosted development tool meant to make it easier to build mashup applications that combine different Web feeds. (See this CNET News.com story on Yahoo Pipes for more information.)

Yahoo Pipes visual mashup builder CNET Networks

The idea is that people use a visual layout form to wire together a series of structured data feeds. Mashups, obviously, can be developed, but Pipes is supposed to make the process of developing them easier, Yahoo says.

The site appeared to be having outages this morning: "Our Pipes are clogged! We've called the plumbers!" was posted on its home page as of 10 a.m. PST. But early examples I was able to see included setting up a news alert that searched several news feeds. One could also create an eBay price tracker that monitors eBay's RSS feed and sends an alert when an item hits a certain price.

Pipes currently works only with RSS and Atom syndicated feeds, but Yahoo says it intends to open the service up to other sources and to make the tool itself extensible.

The tech blogosphere was all abuzz about the service , with Tim O'Reilly proclaiming that Pipes marks a "milestone in the history of the Internet."

In his blog, O'Reilly says this sort of visual mashup builder could be used by tech-savvy users, rather than just programmers, but it appears that understanding basic programming notions is a big help.

"Novice" Larry Dignan, an executive editor at ZDNet, built a gallery of his frustrating attempt to wire up some pipes, part of it apparently due to system errors popping up.