Microsoft releases neat mashup tool

Microsoft has just released “Popfly.” This tool, and community, lets you build a TwitterVision in literally a few minutes (mashup various stuff from various Web services like Twitter, Flickr, Virtual Earth, etc). When I first saw this demoed a few months ago the Microsoftie who showed it to me literally built TwitterVision in two minutes right in front of me without writing code. TwitterVision’s inventor told me he took four hours to do the same thing. Lets someone who isn’t a coder (like me) mashup various Web services easily and quickly. This is a “small” thing from Microsoft. It isn’t going to get professional developers hot and bothered (at least I don’t think) but it is another piece of a Web strategy. If Microsoft released 10 small things like this then we’d start thinking that they “get” the Web again. What do you think?

Oh, and don’t think it’s just for TwitterVision clones, either. It’ll be interesting to see what people do with this. Start with the Overview page to see what it does.

This was the “small” thing I expected Microsoft to release at Mix.

Comments

  1. An excellent release given the details shown, including the video – it has lots of the right ingredients, including a Visual Studio plug-in. While it is targetted at non-professionals, I’d be surprised if they aren’t the first to have a go.

  2. An excellent release given the details shown, including the video – it has lots of the right ingredients, including a Visual Studio plug-in. While it is targetted at non-professionals, I’d be surprised if they aren’t the first to have a go.

  3. I loved this, from the FAQ:

    Q. Why did you call it Popfly?

    A. Well, left to our own devices we would have called “Microsoft Visual Mashup Creator Express, May 2007 Community Tech Preview Internet Edition,” but instead we asked some folks for help and they suggested some cool names and we all liked Popfly.

  4. I loved this, from the FAQ:

    Q. Why did you call it Popfly?

    A. Well, left to our own devices we would have called “Microsoft Visual Mashup Creator Express, May 2007 Community Tech Preview Internet Edition,” but instead we asked some folks for help and they suggested some cool names and we all liked Popfly.

  5. What timing..I was just going to build such an interface this weekend for showing the locations of our international real estate property videos and video interviews as they are being watched.

    Hopefully, they’ll approve me and I’ll have a demo to show.

  6. What timing..I was just going to build such an interface this weekend for showing the locations of our international real estate property videos and video interviews as they are being watched.

    Hopefully, they’ll approve me and I’ll have a demo to show.

  7. I think it’s the small things like this that bring more people into the fold. Microsoft has a lot of resources at its disposal and it’s nice to see it giving something cool like this to the community – even if it only took two minutes to build.

  8. I think it’s the small things like this that bring more people into the fold. Microsoft has a lot of resources at its disposal and it’s nice to see it giving something cool like this to the community – even if it only took two minutes to build.

  9. I can totally envision this type of app being repurposed in the biz world with different blocks to reflect biz data, news, etc, and publishable to a SharePoint site nativeley. Business mashups in SharePoint could be extremely powerful in empowering end users behind firewalls. Crossing my fingers that we see this eventaully.

  10. I can totally envision this type of app being repurposed in the biz world with different blocks to reflect biz data, news, etc, and publishable to a SharePoint site nativeley. Business mashups in SharePoint could be extremely powerful in empowering end users behind firewalls. Crossing my fingers that we see this eventaully.

  11. I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it. I downloaded the MSI, and have VS2005 pro through my MSDN pro subscription. I do not have much time for fun and games on the development side due to my work load, but I will try to give this a shot on Sunday for about 30 minutes. I anticipate that it will not live up to standards driven javascript/php, but I at least have to try MS products to truly know how bad they are, which is why I have not used my MSDN dvds as coasters just yet. I rarely boot into vista instead of RH, perhaps once ever 2 months now for work, so this better be good.

    I see the web interface to the community and web dev tool requires silverlight, so that kills off all the digg.com users right there, and me as well. I will have to use it from VS2005 Pro in order to try it.

  12. I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it. I downloaded the MSI, and have VS2005 pro through my MSDN pro subscription. I do not have much time for fun and games on the development side due to my work load, but I will try to give this a shot on Sunday for about 30 minutes. I anticipate that it will not live up to standards driven javascript/php, but I at least have to try MS products to truly know how bad they are, which is why I have not used my MSDN dvds as coasters just yet. I rarely boot into vista instead of RH, perhaps once ever 2 months now for work, so this better be good.

    I see the web interface to the community and web dev tool requires silverlight, so that kills off all the digg.com users right there, and me as well. I will have to use it from VS2005 Pro in order to try it.

  13. Sounds like Yahoo Pipes, am I getting the wrong impression from the description?

    No, not like Yahoo Pipes. Have you tried using Pipes? It’s clearly targeted at pro developers…hard to use…much more limited. I think Popfly is more for script kiddies (the good kind hopefully…) who want to trick out their FaceBook site or build little gadgets without having to write any code.

  14. Sounds like Yahoo Pipes, am I getting the wrong impression from the description?

    No, not like Yahoo Pipes. Have you tried using Pipes? It’s clearly targeted at pro developers…hard to use…much more limited. I think Popfly is more for script kiddies (the good kind hopefully…) who want to trick out their FaceBook site or build little gadgets without having to write any code.

  15. @12 Chris:
    “I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it.”

    And we care, why?
    Who do you think you are, E.F. Hutton? :p

  16. @12 Chris:
    “I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it.”

    And we care, why?
    Who do you think you are, E.F. Hutton? :p

  17. Why should you have to register/sign-in to try this? It said to enter my Windows Live ID and password, which I did, and it still won’t let me see it, saying that either the servers are too busy or I am not registered. Well, which is it? If I’m not registered what do I have to do to register?

    I agree that Microsoft needs to do more things like Google to be considered to have “gotten it”. This doesn’t look like an example so far to me. Many Google services, including mashups with other things require no sign-on or registration. I don’t know why this should be any different.

  18. Why should you have to register/sign-in to try this? It said to enter my Windows Live ID and password, which I did, and it still won’t let me see it, saying that either the servers are too busy or I am not registered. Well, which is it? If I’m not registered what do I have to do to register?

    I agree that Microsoft needs to do more things like Google to be considered to have “gotten it”. This doesn’t look like an example so far to me. Many Google services, including mashups with other things require no sign-on or registration. I don’t know why this should be any different.

  19. @15 Macbeach: Sorry about that, we don’t differentiate between you not having an account with us, and our servers being down at present. It’s one of those Alpha things. We also talk about why we’re not expanding the pool of invitations more broadly on our FAQ page. Also, Gmail and Orkut were next to impossible to get onto for quite a while after they launched.

    Cheers,
    Aaron
    Microsoft Popfly

  20. @15 Macbeach: Sorry about that, we don’t differentiate between you not having an account with us, and our servers being down at present. It’s one of those Alpha things. We also talk about why we’re not expanding the pool of invitations more broadly on our FAQ page. Also, Gmail and Orkut were next to impossible to get onto for quite a while after they launched.

    Cheers,
    Aaron
    Microsoft Popfly

  21. @14

    Because stocks don’t matter to me. No I am not Mr. Hutton. I am a software developer and manager, and I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial, ie., not paid by microsoft to give some commentary on the actual validity of said x, y, z toolkit instead of every comment being about something the commenters do not understand.

  22. @14

    Because stocks don’t matter to me. No I am not Mr. Hutton. I am a software developer and manager, and I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial, ie., not paid by microsoft to give some commentary on the actual validity of said x, y, z toolkit instead of every comment being about something the commenters do not understand.

  23. @15 macbeach

    From the FAQ:
    ==============================

    Q. How can someone get invited to the alpha?

    A. Sign up for the waitlist and you’ll automatically receive a notification for joining the Popfly community in the future.

    Q. How do I join Popfly?

    A. Popfly is currently in a private alpha while we get feedback from our users and while we work out the kinks. If you have a friend on Popfly, you can ask them for an invitation otherwise you can sign up for the waitlist to be automatically notified when we’re ready to add more users.

    Q. Why aren’t you releasing Popfly more broadly?

    A. We want to make sure we have the right user experience and the right features that Popfly users are asking for by conducting limited alpha tests. We’ll continue to increase our user base and storage space in the future.

    Q. How many people are being invited to this alpha?

    A. In total, we will have approximately 2,000 people in the alpha.

    ===================================

    You come here and ask, “why do I have to register?”, when the answers are right there. Oh, and I do have to sign onto Google with my Google id (which has no real connection to me, thankfully), in order to use their services.

    As for your popfly registration troubles, you were probably blocked by the “Microsoft haters” filter. :p

    Seriously, since this has been released as a private alpha, limited to just 2000 at this time, those 2000 people should be serious inquirers, willing to really play with this thing and report any problems they find. The 2000 slots should not be taken up by the non-serious (“I’m just taking it for a spin, and won’t bother to report anything (except indirectly through bashing it on blogs)”). Certainly not by those that will try it for just 30 minutes, then go to the blogs to bash it (Chris all but admits that such is his agenda).

    macbeach, it’s well-known that you don’t hold Microsoft in high regard. Are you really going to test this thing and report problems? Or are you like Chris/Beer, in that you’ve already decided it sucks, just want to prove that to yourself, and would therefore be wasting one of the 2000 slots?

  24. @15 macbeach

    From the FAQ:
    ==============================

    Q. How can someone get invited to the alpha?

    A. Sign up for the waitlist and you’ll automatically receive a notification for joining the Popfly community in the future.

    Q. How do I join Popfly?

    A. Popfly is currently in a private alpha while we get feedback from our users and while we work out the kinks. If you have a friend on Popfly, you can ask them for an invitation otherwise you can sign up for the waitlist to be automatically notified when we’re ready to add more users.

    Q. Why aren’t you releasing Popfly more broadly?

    A. We want to make sure we have the right user experience and the right features that Popfly users are asking for by conducting limited alpha tests. We’ll continue to increase our user base and storage space in the future.

    Q. How many people are being invited to this alpha?

    A. In total, we will have approximately 2,000 people in the alpha.

    ===================================

    You come here and ask, “why do I have to register?”, when the answers are right there. Oh, and I do have to sign onto Google with my Google id (which has no real connection to me, thankfully), in order to use their services.

    As for your popfly registration troubles, you were probably blocked by the “Microsoft haters” filter. :p

    Seriously, since this has been released as a private alpha, limited to just 2000 at this time, those 2000 people should be serious inquirers, willing to really play with this thing and report any problems they find. The 2000 slots should not be taken up by the non-serious (“I’m just taking it for a spin, and won’t bother to report anything (except indirectly through bashing it on blogs)”). Certainly not by those that will try it for just 30 minutes, then go to the blogs to bash it (Chris all but admits that such is his agenda).

    macbeach, it’s well-known that you don’t hold Microsoft in high regard. Are you really going to test this thing and report problems? Or are you like Chris/Beer, in that you’ve already decided it sucks, just want to prove that to yourself, and would therefore be wasting one of the 2000 slots?

  25. I just watched the demo screencast at http://www.popfly.ms/Overview/

    Looked very cool.
    (I noticed that the Popfly Page Designer uses an Office 2k7 Ribbon UI. :))

    @Chris, you say that “The Digg community” won’t go for this, but one of the mashups in the screencase it a Digg mashup.

  26. I just watched the demo screencast at http://www.popfly.ms/Overview/

    Looked very cool.
    (I noticed that the Popfly Page Designer uses an Office 2k7 Ribbon UI. :))

    @Chris, you say that “The Digg community” won’t go for this, but one of the mashups in the screencase it a Digg mashup.

  27. I just watched the channel9 video. At first I thought it really did what twittervision and flickrvision do, but after watching the video I see that it does it all via a proprietary active X window, and the popfly application in fact does not write out the javascript and server code.

    The active X component does not work on my operating system. Basically it’s just mapping data fields via drag&drop and combo menus. There is no real new functionality here.

    It’s boring. I retire to designing my new sql server. Substance > air.

  28. I just watched the channel9 video. At first I thought it really did what twittervision and flickrvision do, but after watching the video I see that it does it all via a proprietary active X window, and the popfly application in fact does not write out the javascript and server code.

    The active X component does not work on my operating system. Basically it’s just mapping data fields via drag&drop and combo menus. There is no real new functionality here.

    It’s boring. I retire to designing my new sql server. Substance > air.

  29. It is in retro-scoble style, shakey cam and all.

    Hhahaha. :) Good one. Nowtro style is HD 1080i reduced to 480 always-outta-frame with a cheesy graphic intro. But if it works, for that low (low low) audience share that loves to hear start-up Exec’s blather on about their hot hot new service.

  30. It is in retro-scoble style, shakey cam and all.

    Hhahaha. :) Good one. Nowtro style is HD 1080i reduced to 480 always-outta-frame with a cheesy graphic intro. But if it works, for that low (low low) audience share that loves to hear start-up Exec’s blather on about their hot hot new service.


  31. after watching the video I see that it does it all via a proprietary active X window, and the popfly application in fact does not write out the javascript and server code.

    To Chris’s comment on ActiveX, The Popfly Mashup Designer uses Silverlight, a free beta plug-in that works on IE/Firefox, and Windows/Mac. Also, to be clear, the Virtual Earth application you build does *not* use or require an ActiveX control in any way, shape or form. I suggest you watch the demo video at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=91175 to see that this is all using JavaScript and you can *even* go in and manually change the JavaScript for the TwitterVision sample.

    Further, if you don’t want to, you con’t have to use the block designer, you can write your own custom AJAX application. Here’s a puzzle example that uses the popular open source 3rd party AJAX Scriptaculous library (http://script.aculo.us/) used on sites like Digg, RubyOnRails.org, and Apple’s Aperture site.

    This works on every platform that Scriptaculous works including Windows/Linux/Macs etc.

    http://www.popfly.ms/users/Dan/Scriptaculous%20AJAX%20Puzzle%20Demo

    In short, Popfly enables you to build both rich AJAX or Silverlight applications.

    Thanks,
    -Dan Fernandez
    Lead Product Manager
    Non-Professional Tools Team


  32. after watching the video I see that it does it all via a proprietary active X window, and the popfly application in fact does not write out the javascript and server code.

    To Chris’s comment on ActiveX, The Popfly Mashup Designer uses Silverlight, a free beta plug-in that works on IE/Firefox, and Windows/Mac. Also, to be clear, the Virtual Earth application you build does *not* use or require an ActiveX control in any way, shape or form. I suggest you watch the demo video at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=91175 to see that this is all using JavaScript and you can *even* go in and manually change the JavaScript for the TwitterVision sample.

    Further, if you don’t want to, you con’t have to use the block designer, you can write your own custom AJAX application. Here’s a puzzle example that uses the popular open source 3rd party AJAX Scriptaculous library (http://script.aculo.us/) used on sites like Digg, RubyOnRails.org, and Apple’s Aperture site.

    This works on every platform that Scriptaculous works including Windows/Linux/Macs etc.

    http://www.popfly.ms/users/Dan/Scriptaculous%20AJAX%20Puzzle%20Demo

    In short, Popfly enables you to build both rich AJAX or Silverlight applications.

    Thanks,
    -Dan Fernandez
    Lead Product Manager
    Non-Professional Tools Team

  33. @12

    I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it.

    @17

    I am a software developer and manager, and I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial, ie., not paid by microsoft to give some commentary on the actual validity

    A much more proper way to this would be to (a) put said commentary on YOUR OWN blog, and then (b) trackback to Robert’s post.

    Chris, you really are beginning to pollute this blog with the frequency of your comments here. JMHO.

  34. @12

    I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it.

    @17

    I am a software developer and manager, and I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial, ie., not paid by microsoft to give some commentary on the actual validity

    A much more proper way to this would be to (a) put said commentary on YOUR OWN blog, and then (b) trackback to Robert’s post.

    Chris, you really are beginning to pollute this blog with the frequency of your comments here. JMHO.

  35. “In short, Popfly enables you to build both rich AJAX or Silverlight applications.”

    That’s a relief. Thanks for clearing that up Dan. I take back what I said. It wasn’t clear from the Channel9 video.

    Popfly DOES look cool, but not very useful as far as computing is concerned.

    The interface designer looks almost like what MS was doing with wallop where they were tracing social relationships between users.

    http://research.microsoft.com/scg/

    If you want, you could check out why none of the atlas stuff seems to work in Konqueror. I noticed that immediately.

  36. “In short, Popfly enables you to build both rich AJAX or Silverlight applications.”

    That’s a relief. Thanks for clearing that up Dan. I take back what I said. It wasn’t clear from the Channel9 video.

    Popfly DOES look cool, but not very useful as far as computing is concerned.

    The interface designer looks almost like what MS was doing with wallop where they were tracing social relationships between users.

    http://research.microsoft.com/scg/

    If you want, you could check out why none of the atlas stuff seems to work in Konqueror. I noticed that immediately.

  37. I think that projects like these will actually warm up the opinion of microsoft; i think silverlight will do the same. Although silverlight did create a bad first impression, not working in firefox and all when i tried it – but the intentions are on target.

  38. I think that projects like these will actually warm up the opinion of microsoft; i think silverlight will do the same. Although silverlight did create a bad first impression, not working in firefox and all when i tried it – but the intentions are on target.

  39. Chrissie boy, you really are something else.

    “I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it”
    - says it all really. you think your narrow mindedness means you have a valid point every time you bash something. well in the real world, people have more credibility if they actually know what they are talking about, ideally from experience

    “I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial”
    - yeah, and you’re appointing yourself as that somebody? sheesh. I’m surprised you can even spell the word impartial. you’re not a somebody, you’re a nobody.

  40. Chrissie boy, you really are something else.

    “I’m actually going to hold off on blasting this until I try it”
    - says it all really. you think your narrow mindedness means you have a valid point every time you bash something. well in the real world, people have more credibility if they actually know what they are talking about, ideally from experience

    “I think it would be nice to have some insight from somebody impartial”
    - yeah, and you’re appointing yourself as that somebody? sheesh. I’m surprised you can even spell the word impartial. you’re not a somebody, you’re a nobody.

  41. @30

    “you’re not a somebody, you’re a nobody.”

    If it weren’t for NDAs I would be a somebody. I can’t do anything about that.

    Everything Microsoft usually does corners you to use their OS or Visual Studio, as opposed to Google’s frameworks and other code frameworks. This is no different really, but at least it can write out the JS and code behind, instead of doing it all via silverlight.

    Not that much better, but somewhat.

    I’d like to justify my somebodyness, but due to legal concerns I can’t. And I will probably never be able to.

  42. @30

    “you’re not a somebody, you’re a nobody.”

    If it weren’t for NDAs I would be a somebody. I can’t do anything about that.

    Everything Microsoft usually does corners you to use their OS or Visual Studio, as opposed to Google’s frameworks and other code frameworks. This is no different really, but at least it can write out the JS and code behind, instead of doing it all via silverlight.

    Not that much better, but somewhat.

    I’d like to justify my somebodyness, but due to legal concerns I can’t. And I will probably never be able to.

  43. @18 Pepper:

    Been away for a couple of days, but for the record:

    I signed up for a Hotmail ID as soon as they announced the new interface and increased storage (ditto for Yahoo). I already had a Gmail account, but, well they were the first to come out with such a thing. At the time, I *certainly* could have been talked into using Hotmail or Yahoo as my primary e-mail since I had been using POP based e-mail for so long the whole idea of switching to web-based mail was still something I had to get used to. I did *in fact* report problems with Hotmail which were addressed, and I think I got a little thank-you note in there somewhere.

    I was once *at least* as much a supporter of Microsoft as I am any company now. I have no *reason* to hate Microsoft other than for what they do, have done, or attempt to do to users. Like my old friend the drunk, who I had to wash my hands of because it was clear he was never going to stop getting shit-faced, in spite of the damage it did to his family and friends (not to mention himself), Microsoft is in serious need of some sort of “intervention” either from within or from without.

    I have little doubt that such an intervention will happen. The only question is whether it will be sooner or later, whether it will be the government, some other company, or a fed-up user base.

    Funny, I didn’t see anything in Robert’s original post about it being Alpha, or even a test. No, I shouldn’t be one of 2000, nor would I want to be. I just wanted to see what the bloody hype was all about, and, as II am involved with steering small companies to new products, maybe this could have been one of them. Sorry for my interest. But don’t worry, apathy toward Microsoft’s new web initiatives is setting in real fast. With friends (or employees) like you Pepper, MS doesn’t need enemies. Response from #16 was much more appropriate, and appreciated.

  44. @18 Pepper:

    Been away for a couple of days, but for the record:

    I signed up for a Hotmail ID as soon as they announced the new interface and increased storage (ditto for Yahoo). I already had a Gmail account, but, well they were the first to come out with such a thing. At the time, I *certainly* could have been talked into using Hotmail or Yahoo as my primary e-mail since I had been using POP based e-mail for so long the whole idea of switching to web-based mail was still something I had to get used to. I did *in fact* report problems with Hotmail which were addressed, and I think I got a little thank-you note in there somewhere.

    I was once *at least* as much a supporter of Microsoft as I am any company now. I have no *reason* to hate Microsoft other than for what they do, have done, or attempt to do to users. Like my old friend the drunk, who I had to wash my hands of because it was clear he was never going to stop getting shit-faced, in spite of the damage it did to his family and friends (not to mention himself), Microsoft is in serious need of some sort of “intervention” either from within or from without.

    I have little doubt that such an intervention will happen. The only question is whether it will be sooner or later, whether it will be the government, some other company, or a fed-up user base.

    Funny, I didn’t see anything in Robert’s original post about it being Alpha, or even a test. No, I shouldn’t be one of 2000, nor would I want to be. I just wanted to see what the bloody hype was all about, and, as II am involved with steering small companies to new products, maybe this could have been one of them. Sorry for my interest. But don’t worry, apathy toward Microsoft’s new web initiatives is setting in real fast. With friends (or employees) like you Pepper, MS doesn’t need enemies. Response from #16 was much more appropriate, and appreciated.