Mastering the Mashup : our panel at AlwaysOn

This week at Tony Perkin’s AlwaysOn Media conference (which Atlas Venture was sponsoring)

it was my pleasure to moderate an entertaining panel on Mashups.

We started out by defining mashups for the audience, linking both content mashups ( being the example I used, mixing maps and crime stats) and application mashups (the creation of composite applications through the use of web services). For info on mashups best to look at ProgrammableWeb.

After a presentation of the participants we ran through a good number of questions from the audience.

Itzik Cohen of ClipSync talked through the unique value presented by his technology innovation, turning the web into a real “venue” where an audience could interact in real time around content. The guy used to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv; I am not worthy. Clipsync: “Watch it together” — Imagine watching Borat with your friends and not alone with your PC. Danny Kolke from Etelos presented his evolutive vision from the programmable web, but the old days of exposing legacy apps as webservices to today’s broadening API platforms and a world where, effectively, “everything is content” (from his blog). “Uninsurable” Seth Sternberg from Meebo said he did not know he was a mashup at all when he started the company. I joked that with 1.6M logins a day (if I remember correctly) the absence of buzzwords should not be a problem for the company. And Rex Wong of Dave Networks talked us through his use of mashup concepts to create the media enabler of the future.

Some of the thoughts that came out of the panel:

  • Innovation still required: Most content mashups are little more than fun apps put together by coders after hours. Take ononemap for an elegant example. But those that can add real value and stand on their own two feet as technology innovations can hope to accrete sustainable value.
  • Mashup = reuse = efficiency: Mashups provide the ultimate time-to-market and capital efficiency tool. Why reinvent the wheel when you can piggyback the expertise of other programmers and product designers and assemble a best of breed application ?
  • Confusion of roles: In the Open API word who knows whether you are an enabler, a destination site, a content ingestion site etc? You can be all of the above. Meebo is a multi IM tool but can also be found in the gadgets on DailyMotion is a video hub and who knows whether it’s a destination site, an enabler for private channels, a hoster for blogs.
  • On-the-fly intermediation: The internet has seen wave after wave of intermediation. Meta-intermediaries are easiliy enabled by mashups. The ability to provide unique value but leverage the data and communities built by others give mashups unique leverage.
  • Mashups as disruptors: consider this: if you can leverage thousands of programmers, audited open platforms, millions of content providers, mashups could be much more than “features as companies” or distant derivatives that deliver no value. They could well prove to be a disruptive force in the software industry.

I am happy to report that at least one person liked the session :-) Allen Stern also posted a fairly detailed review of the session on his blog.

Rex / Seth / Danny / Itzik and me (c) A. Stern

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