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Yahoo: Pipe in data, then mash it up

Beta Web service Yahoo Pipes is designed to make it easier to manipulate data feeds from Web sites in creating applications.

Yahoo wants more mashups.

The Web giant on Wednesday released Yahoo Pipes, a hosted visual-development tool that lets people manipulate data feeds from Web sites to create new applications.

Mashup applications combine data from different Web services; some of the most popular mashups involve taking data from one source, such as real-estate listings, and displaying them on Web-based mapping services.

With Yahoo Pipes, which is in beta, the company is trying to give developers--and tech-savvy users--more power in combining structured data feeds, typically done through the Really Simple Syndication or Atom protocols.

Although the service currently works only with RSS and Atom feeds, Yahoo intends to expand the number of data sources with which people can work. It also plans to allow third parties to create add-on modules and to expand the service's information output composition to include formats such as maps.

For example, someone can use Yahoo Pipes to combine multiple Web calendar feeds to display as one. He can customize news alerts to filter through several news feeds, and he can create an individualized eBay price watcher that monitors an RSS feed to find items within a certain price range.

The technical inspiration for Yahoo Pipes comes from Unix, an operating system with which programmers can establish a pipeline of connected data sources, said Jeremy Zawodny, a Yahoo blogger who works in Yahoo's platform engineering group.

"On the Web, however, it's harder," Zawodny wrote. "There are data sources and feeds, but until now, we've had no pipes! Pulling together and integrating data sources using JavaScript isn't on the client for the faint of heart."

The point of Yahoo Pipes is to give people better tools to connect the growing number of structured data sources, Zawodny said.

Initial reactions among technology bloggers are highly enthusiastic. O'Reilly Media Publisher Tim O'Reilly, who coined the term Web 2.0, said Yahoo Pipes marks a "milestone in the history of the Internet."

The service's beta site was accessible only intermittently Thursday morning.