Challenges in the Mashup Tools Market

John Musser
Jul. 31 2007, 12:39AM EDT

It's not always easy being in the "mashup tools" marketplace these days. While the rapid growth of hundreds of open APIs presents new opportunities for mashup tool vendors, it's not simple to find the right markets, users and scenarios to guarantee success.

First of all there's already lots of competition. Just see in Dion Hinchcliffe's excellent summary of 17 products in a bumper crop of new mashup platforms. Dion includes products ranging from UI-centric tools like Microsoft Popfly and JackBe to scraping tools like Dapper and Kapow to enterprise-centric tools like IBM's QEDWiki, Proto, BEA AquaLogic and RSSBus. (For even more tools, see also Read Write Web's profile of Iceberg, Tibco's new PageBus, and this set of mashup resources at Mashable.)

Even without the compeition, finding the right market is a challenge. Take for example last week's post from Teqlo CEO Peter Rip entitled The Teqlo Adventure. Peter lays-out a variety of the issues this mashup tools startup has had to confront:

First, let me admit we went down a mashup rat hole. We have a general technology for snapping together web services. "Because they can" is an insufficient answer to "why do people want to create mashups?" We failed to commit to solve a specific problem for a specific market, preferring instead the broad appeal of generality. This has changed.

No one led us down this rat hole. We led ourselves. When we realized we had to make a radical shift, we had to reignite the fire with limited fuel. We made personnel changes because the fuel demanded it, not to penalize or blame anyone. So we did the right thing. We cut, refocused, questioned everything, and sharpened our edge.

The first thing we did was toss out any pretense of solving everyone’s problem. There is an old proverb that I just invented for this situation -- “The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” We had to define our puddle. So we did.

Peter goes on to outline how they've been working on better defining their core customer and how their service will be re-appearing to focus on a specific application of web-based workflow. More details coming soon.

Earlier this month at MashupCamp there was a lot of talk about tools and the challenges in sorting-out the players, who fits where, what tools should be used by what type of user (is it a developer or an Excel jockey?), how to get them to integrate nicely together, etc.

It's still in the early going for all of this web-as-platform stuff, not just the tools but the APIs, the applications and the business models. Not only that, things can change very quickly, just ask Facebook's competitors.

John Musser

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John -- great post. I have had a similar experience in creating the Scholar's Box, which was a general purpose tool that demonstrated a lot of mashup potential but wasn't focused enough on solving any specific problem. Hence, it wasn't that useful in the end.

I'm planning to get back to working on the Scholar's Box but with a focus on some very specific problems.

-Raymond

Hi Raymond. I agree, there's something about mashups and APIs that makes it very tempting to build general purpose solutions and tools. Even when it's not easy to nail-down the specific real-world problem being solved.

[...] Challenges in the Mashup Tools Market It’s not always easy being in the “mashup tools” marketplace these days. While the rapid growth of hundreds of open APIs presents new opportunities for mashup tool vendors, it’s not simple to find the right markets, users and scenarios to guarante (tags: blog.programmableweb.com 2007 mes10 dia11 mashup generator lista_de_geradores blog_post mercado) [...]

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