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17 févr. 2009

What’s a Mobile Mashup?

At Mashup Camp 2006 I hosted a session on Mobile Mashups. The attendance was very high and the discussions were very good. There were, however, some serious misconceptions about what a mobile mashup was, how it gets consumed by the user, and what tools you can use to develop them.

Misconception #1. What is a Mashup?
Mashup is a very general term for an application that incorporates realtime data and services (APIs) from 3rd party sources over the Internet. A Mashup is often very focused and task oriented. Due to the overwhelming popularity of Google’s Mapping API, many of the Mashups at the camp in some way leveraged mapping as an element of their mashup. Mapping, however, is NOT a requirement for a Mashup.

Misconception #2. Mashups are always browser applications
This was by far the biggest misconception at the event. Although the browser is the most accessible platform for developing and distributing a Mashup it is by no means the only platform, and arguably not always the most appropriate from an end-user perspective. mWorks, for example, provides a platform for creating mashups that run as an application on your mobile phone, Apple Widgets and Yahoo! Konfabulator both provide a platform for creating a mashups that run as Widgets on your desktop, and the list goes on. The important thing to remember about a Mashup is that it is an application that leverages realtime data and / or services accessed over the Internet. The delivery mechanism for the Mashup is completely independent. In fact, many mashups are available in mobile, widget, and browser versions.

Misconception #3. Mobile Mashups are not as useful as Mashups that run on the desktop
The notion that a Mashup can only be valuable on the Desktop is silly. In fact many of the mashups that are available would be better served by running on mobile phones because they present information that is more relevant when you are NOT near a computer.

Misconception #4. The mobile browser is the only platform “open” to the developer
I think that many in attendance were surprised to find out that you could create a mashup using SMS and Java in addition to the browser on a device. The unfortunate truths about both SMS and Java is that they are not that easy to use … but thats what mWorks is for!

Misconception #5. Well, is it a Mobile Mashup or Not?
The truth of the matter is that Mobile can just as easily be an aspect to a larger mashup that has a desktop aspect to the experience as well as a mobile. SMS is ideal for sending notification which may be best setup and configured via the Web. Conversely, some information that is also available on the browser may be ideally suited for the device because the data is more relevant while away from the computer. And finally, some mashups benefit from enabling a user to contribute information while away from their computers but consume the information while at the desktop (think photo uploads).

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