I 've been using Popfly for a few weeks now and I'm loving it a lot, as it's got all the goodness of Web 2.0 and then some.
What is Popfly to the untrained eye?
Well this isn't the official wording, but to me it's a way in which folks will be able to converge in the one spot and piece together mashups containing a lot of interesting elements. An example would be how I managed to mashup Twitter, Flickr, World of Warcraft, XBOX Gamer Tags and Virtual Earth. The end result isn't as elegant as I had hoped, but that's fine as one thing that Popfly allows is the ability for me to go in and write some actual "code" via a web browser to make the pieces align appropriately.
How cool is that!
This looks similar to Yahoo! Pipes!
I must confess, this was my initial reaction as well. Yet, after playing with it I can argue the case that it exceeds Yahoo! Pipes in terms of functionality and community involvement. It's got more potential ahead of it and this is only alpha at the moment (so clearly Microsoft aren't done). I do like Yahoo! Pipes, but if I had to assemble a benchmark of what's out there today compared to what this is shaping up to be tomorrow, I'd have to say it's a cross between what Adobe JamJar was supposed to do, Yahoo! Pipes and Channel9 all blended into the one unified view.
ReadySteadyMashup.com gets closer!
I want to combine my original idea of using the ReadySteadyMashup.com with this and then combine it with other Microsoft products. As here's the thing, imagine if you will you take Popfly and mix it with your other applications out there in the Web 2.0 world as you can embed these pieces into websites/gadgets (I saw a demo earlier this month where a mashup was blended together to produce a SideBar Gadget - very cool)
Did you know you can code this stuff in Visual Studio Express?
Yeah it's true, not only can you use Silverlight to visually piece and assemble the parts together, but you can also code against them using Visual Studio (via the explorer plug-in). This is pretty darn cool for a lot of web punters out there, as doing so means you could utilize this in a number of ways and are only limited by your imagination.
I'm sure some other editors out there could think of some ways to also make plug-ins to empower their developer ranks to do what Visual Studio Web Express could do. If not, ours is always free remember (as in beer).
Why I care?
Well, back in the day I was asked to write the whitepaper for Adobe JamJar, a product in which at the time I thought was awesome. Only as I was writing the whitepaper and asking the folks more about it, I started to get a bit confused as the one thing I wanted the most from this product was - the ability for others to write pieces for JamJar (i.e. I can write my own widget in Adobe Flex/Flash and insert it into the JamJar ecosystem). It wasn't an option, and so I lost interest in it.
When I then saw Popfly, which used to have another code-name, I began to regain interest in this idea and after I got passed trying to benchmark it against both Adobe JamJar and Yahoo! Pipes I began to see some real goodness in the core of this puppy. I care, because it's what most of these cool Web 2.0 concepts should be like, where we take the awesome fun of Twitter and now can combine them with World of Warcraft API's - why? who cares! It just works.
Where to from here?
Chaos initially then maybe some order, but I'd prefer more Chaos. In reality this is going to be a good thing for the Web 2.0 community as it's empowering non-developers the ability to play with all your API's going forward. You will see a lot of Live.com API's in there of course, but equally other public/private API's as well (Flickr, Twitter etc). I'd love to see concepts like Tangler somehow get involved and so on, overall it's a good thing and it's purpose is to give the world a giant Web 2.0 sandpit, no strings attached.