A mashup can often be the means though which people will be driven to a website or application. In
fact, it could drive user registrations and ultimately increase the profile of the site in question. For
example, the many mashups built around the Flickr feeds and APIs are a major factor in the site’s popularity.
Mashups help build brand awareness among the online community and often serve to differentiate
websites from their competitors.
Often this can work both ways—if a respected brand launches an API interface to its services, then
developers will be more inclined to check it out, compared to, say, a fledgling start-up. A good example
of this is Amazon, and its various S3 web services, as a company renowned for integrity and reliability;
its brand serves to reassure developers that its services are secure, scalable, and reliable.
In many cases, there are also opportunities for mashups to be embraced by the data provider themselves.
For example, Flickr recently integrated the functionality of Picnik into its site—making it available
to millions of users.
An API can be a way through which to develop a community around a particular web application. Just
as you can see increased traffic by opening your application, you also get mashup developers flocking
to your door. Embracing this can be crucial to the success of a web application because getting thirdparty
developers to support an application can generate massive returns across the board.
If you look at social networking, sites such as Facebook and OpenSocial have been successful in developing
huge communities of developers who are interested in building mashups and applications upon
their platforms. This has really led to an explosion in functionality available to users and has also generated
huge amounts of publicity.
Often, feeds and APIs serve a primary purpose—to allow access to the underlying data contained
within an application. Offering this functionality promotes the principles of open data, giving the end
user control of the data that is stored within your application. If they want, users can stop using the
service and leave, taking all their data with them.
Alternatively, opening data tends to simplify data reuse across many different applications. If you look
at the recent explosion of social networking websites, you’ll see one major annoyance—the user is
required to maintain the same profile data across multiple sites, so they end up having to spend additional
time updating Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and so on, each time they come across a new favorite
song, for example!
APIs offer a means of decentralizing this, and already we are seeing examples of this; for example, the
Facebook developer platform allows for easy mashups and integration with other data sources.
At the end of the day, yes, there is a risk that your users are perhaps less tied down to a single application,
but surely this sets a challenge to developers to develop relevant and compelling applications
that ultimately fulfill the needs of the user.