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Mashup Basics: Three for the Money

There's some disagreement in the industry about what, exactly, constitutes a mashup. While they clearly involve integrating data from one or more sources, that doesn't nec-essarily require special tools. It can, in principle, be done anywhere, using any kind of programming language. Kapow Technologies told us mashups differ from other kinds of application integration in that the end user has some control. Oracle says that enter-prise mashups involve both internal and external data sources. Nexaweb Technologies believes mashups are defined as Web-based, while Curl says they happen on the client rather than the server.

However, nearly everyone agrees that mashups can be divided into three broad types: presentation, data and logic.

Presentation Mashups

A presentation mashup is the simplest, bringing information from more than one source together into a common user interface. Web portals can be thought of as presen-tation mashups, though internal enterprise portals are still fairly static compared with public Web sites, like iGoogle and My Yahoo, that let users choose the features that appear on their home pages. Because presentation mashups involve little real integra-tion, creating them usually means simply dragging and dropping pre-built widgets or choosing among RSS feeds.

All enterprise mashup platforms offer presentation functionality, claiming to make in-ternal portals as customizable as Google and Yahoo. The only real advantage here is employee satisfaction—which, in some organizations, is important to IT's long-term relevance. They can also improve security and privacy if employees would otherwise be uploading content to Web sites or exposing RSS feeds through the firewall.

Data Mashups
The next step is the data mashup, which means extracting data from multiple sources and combining it. The goal is easier access: Instead of combing through multiple data-bases, users can query several databases at once, both saving time and enabling more cross-referencing and comparison. The most well-known examples are the map-based mashups popping up like mushrooms on the Web: Most mix geographical data with something else, whether Wi-Fi hotspot locations, house prices or crime statistics.

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