I recently applied for and received (separate) invitations from Microsoft and Google to try out Microsoft Popfly and Google Mashup Editor. Both of these products are intended for developers who want to create feed-based mashups. And both are competing products to Yahoo! Pipes – note my original and follow-up reviews. As I mentioned in my reviews, I use two Yahoo! pipes – one containing the feeds of all my friends and the other containing all relevant Google blogs (See snapshot below) – this helps me streamline the subscriptions list in Google Reader.
Microsoft Popfly was serious under-whelming. The graphics were supposed to be cool, but I could hardly get anything working. In fact, the dark and red combination of the graphics made it difficult to navigate the interface. It was also slow. And it didn’t work the way I expected it to with some feeds I tried out. In fact, some feeds were just not processed. There was a Code View, but that also was very confusing.
Google Mashup Editor was much better. There is an initial learning curve as the interface is not graphical at all, but once you get over that, it becomes really easy. You have 3 tabs, the first being a code editor where you have to use an XML language to work with your feeds. There is a “Feed Browser” tab that shows you the raw feeds. Finally you have a Sandbox where you can see the final formatted results.
On the right side, there is a well-organized tab that contains your projects and sample projects. You can load a sample project and save it as your own. There is a Help link that leads to some very good and simple documentation. Google has done a really good job here, unlike Yahoo! which made a terrible mess of documentation when it launched.
So how would I compare Yahoo! Pipes with these new products?
- Yahoo! Pipes has an excellent user interface. It is very intuitive and easy to get up and running. It works excellently. In the last 4 months, I don’t recall even a single problem. The place where they may get hurt in the future is a lack of good scripting capability that can extend the functionality. But so far, so good.
- Google Mashup Editor seems to have the greatest potential. It is excellent for a first release. It has all the basic elements in place – a simple syntax, an easy way to test and reasonably fast. I am not even going to complain much about the lack of a graphical user interface, because a developer can be easily productive even without it.
- Microsoft Popfly can be completely eliminated. They don’t have the user interface correct. They don’t have a good template language. And finally, it doesn’t work, at least in my experience. In fact, it can be buggy and hang at times.