Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hooking up on the internet

I know what you are thinking. Why is Anshu talking about hooking up on a software blog? Is there yet another certified love finding service to challenge eHarmony? And how does this fit into the enterprise software or web2.0 world? Well, rest assured the world, at least the virtual one, is not about to come apart.

This blog post is about making real applications hook up (dictionary meaning: To assemble or wire) without writing code. Teqlo is a platform for end users to build mashups of web services. It is a bit hard to explain why an end user (non programmer) would want to build a mashup till you think of millions of users today that 'build' applications in Excel by writing formulas and connecting cells and spreadsheets. With the web acting as the source of much of the data (email, pictures, reports, maps), many users are performing tasks that require input from various web sites (technically, we services) and need to be combined in various task flows and computations.

The easiest example to think is of a sales person who wants to call various contacts in his Salesforce (or Siebel On-Demand) CRM contact list using Skype. He either has to cut and paste, or wait for a programmer to create a mashup. Teqlo would allow such users to build their own mashups.

Intercity Mashups using 4 letter APIs (R.O.A.D.)

I was recently invited to a preview demo of Teqlo before its launch by Jeff Nolan (Teqlo). He built a real mashup in less than 15 minutes live during the demo. The best way to picture this is by seeing the Teqlo movie put together by Rod Boothby (also from Teqlo). The tools are not yet pretty- its a small startup focusing on functionality and figuring out complex technical issues (micro-formats) and how to hide them from the average consumer. But they are functional and they are now allowing users to sign up for a beta.

Recently, Yahoo! launched Yahoo! Pipes - and its the closest in its mission to Yahoo! Pipes. However, there are some key differences. Yahoo! Pipes works on (RSS) feeds - essentially allowing you to filter and combine feeds. Teqlo, on the other hand, works with web services such as EBay, Amazon etc.

The value of Teqlo's platform will go up as more and more mashups (Teqlets) are built and shared by users. The challenge for them is to get enough users excited to build out an interesting set of mashups that can then be copied and enhanced by others. Although, the full details are not yet worked out- Jeff did share that Teqlo will look to create a market place of apps for users and share in the profits. It is also investing its own resources in building some apps to get to the critical mass. Salesforce's AppExchange is one model to emulate in this space although Salesforce is constrained by its CRM roots and most of the AppExchange apps are what I would call CRM bug fixes and enhancements. (Yes, you do not have to be a savvy reader to see my bias here.)

Both Yahoo! and Teqlo are focusing on the (extranet) web and not the enterprise. I personally think that the ability to connect enterprise applications with web based applications may be the most interesting place for application of such tools- the reason is that Google Maps+FlickR, or Salesforce+Skype problems are common enough that a developer can write code, post it and make some money (or a name) in the process. Where the end user is left high and dry is when she is trying to hook up the recruitment system (big HR) or enterprise CRM with Skype to call down the list of candidates. Jeff's response is that Teqlo is initially focusing on the extranet initially but he clearly sees value in enterprise mashups too- after all, he did work for SAP for many years and know this space wll.

I am curious to see how this plays out. After all, many end users are not even comfortable or adept at Excel spreadsheet apps. It is the business analyst with some techinical knowledge that builds out spreadsheet apps, reports and small apps (Oracle Application Express/HTML DB) in many companies. A new job function (Business Analyst 2.0) may emerge to meet these needs.

What do you think about mashup tools? Do you think this is too early? Have you ever felt the need to build such an app?


Anonymous said...

George Bush is leader of the strongest nation that has ever existed. I am sure he is smart enough to create a Blog. Taking pot shots at Bush just shows how unoriginal you are.

Anshu Sharma said...

George Bush is indeed the leader of the strongest nation. Yes, taking pot shots at Bush does show creative laziness- I would not argue with that either.