Mashups: Remixing the Web

Opinion: Web services continue to get more practical as new hybrids combine services from several sources into richer, more useful resources on specific topics. (

Ask the average person what a mashup is, and they might guess its the latest exotic drink, or perhaps the result of a particularly nasty car accident. But dont let the goofy name fool you.

Mashup refers to a new type of Web site that stands a good chance of changing the way Web applications and services are developed.

Simply put, a mashup is a Web application or service that takes content from a number of other Web sites and mixes them together to create a wholly new kind of content.

One of the most advanced mashups is ChicagoCrime, a site developed by journalist-turned-Web developer Adrian Holovaty. First, Holovaty tapped into the Chicago Police Departments publicly available Web site, which contains a large database of crime-report information. Then he coupled that data with Google Maps to create an easy-to-use guide to crime in the Windy City.

Want to know where the latest incidents of "mob action" in Chicago took place? A few clicks pull up a screen showing a map of Chicago, with small balloons marking the location of each crime. Click on a balloon and up pops the exact street location, along with details about the crime itself.

Want to see all the crimes in your own neighborhood? A few clicks later, and a new map appears showing your neighborhood, along with differently colored balloons for every type of crime.

The word mashup comes from pop music, where it is often used in the hip-hop world to describe the remixing of songs. Appropriately enough, computer programmers adapted the word for their own use, to describe the remixing of Web content.

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It is hard to pinpoint the source of mashups, but Paul Rademacher is widely credited as being one of the first to put together a mashup Web site.

Like so many other big ideas on the Web, Rademachers innovation was driven more by necessity and curiosity than by a business plan. He was looking for a place to live, but was having a frustrating time trying to wade through the listings and locate them on a map of the city.

To solve his problem he wrote a software program that combined real-estate listings from Craigslist with maps from Google. The result is HousingMaps.

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