A mashup is a web application that uses resources or data from two or more different sources and combines them into a single new application.
When data from two or more sources is combined to create a brand new application, the resulting application is called a mashup. One common form of a mashup is a customized map built with Google Maps to display data in a geographically-oriented way. Mashups have grown so common in the last few years that we hardly even recognize them as such anymore. Here are a few mashups that combine data from more than one source to provide a whole new way to visualize the data:
- Craigslist map view: The map view on Craigslist is a mashup of Craigslist listings displayed over a map provided by OpenStreetMap.
- Trendsmap: This service allows you to visualize the most popular trending topics on Twitter based on geographic location.
- Trulia local: Want to know if that house you're considering buying is in a safe neighborhood? Check out Trulia local which combines local crime statistics and house listings.
Have you noticed a trend? All of the mashups we've mentioned combine maps with one more additional types of data. Map mashups are probably the most common type of mashup you'll encounter on the web, but there other types of mashups you'll notice if you keep your eyes open.
Also See: Web 2.0
Frequently Asked Questions
How are mashups created?
Mashups are a feature of the Web 2.0. The trend during web 2.0 is for greater openness and integration between websites and applications.
Over the last several years more and more web applications have been offering a free-to-use application programming interface (API). The point of an API is to make it as easy as possible for developers to pull data from a web application and use it in some new way. Virtually all well-known and established web applications (such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Maps) offer an API and a whole range of other tools designed to make it easy for developers to integrate data form the application into their projects.
Are there any limits to what can be done with a mashup?
While most popular websites and applications are happy to allow developers to access their data, they don't do so without any limits. For an example of the sort of terms of service that govern the use of an application's API check out the terms that go along with use of the Google Maps API.
It's not uncommon for a developer to use data in a way that pushes the boundary of what is considered acceptable. For example, one Google Maps API FAQ states “there are some uses of the Google Maps APIs that we just don't want to see: maps that identify the places to buy illegal drugs in a city, for instance…We also respect people's privacy, so the Google Maps APIs shouldn't be used to identify private information about individuals.”
Violating the terms of service of an API generally results in access to the API being terminated, effectively killing the mashup until a new source of data can be found.