I’d love to be able to write about Yahoo’s new Pipes feature/service/thingamajig — if only so that I could cram in a bunch of puns about the pipes getting full or calling the plumber, etc. like some of the comedians here — but in what has become an all-too familiar event when a new service launches, it has been taken offline due to server overload (and while we’re on the subject, why didn’t they call it Yahoo Tubes? Much better name).


That might be understandable if we were talking about a couple of guys working out of their college dorm room, or someone’s basement in SoHo, with a few old roped-together SparcStations and a leased line from Verizon or something like that. But why wouldn’t Yahoo — which no doubt has half a dozen football-field sized server farms stationed around the continent, with hundreds of thousands of PCs humming away inside — put a few more servers online for their new toy? Going down right out of the gate just looks so bush league.

As for the service itself, I know that people like Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web like this idea of remixing RSS feeds and other things, and Jeremy at Yahoo does a good job of describing the thinking behind it — a guy I like to call Radar O’Reilly (old M.A.S.H. reference) calls it a “milestone in the history of the Internet” — but I just don’t get it.

This looks like pretty hardcore geekology, it seems to me. Not that it isn’t of value, but definitely something that would appeal mostly to people building other things, rather than as a consumer-facing service. If I ever get a chance to actually look at it, maybe I will think differently.

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Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

10 Responses to “Yahoo’s Pipes goes down the tubes”
  1. I’d obviously love to check it out too. It’s appealing to me because while web 2.0 is partly about user created content, I think what’s coming next is users being able to create dynamic, rich websites themselves. (pligg lets anyone create a digg). This seems to be one step in that direction.

  2. I’m with you Mathew. I have been reading about this all day and I still can’t figure out the why of it … other than being cool I just don’t see the value.

  3. I agree, Jason — but how many people are going to want to put together their own flow chart of RSS feeds to build a site? Very few, I would imagine.

    To me it looks more like a toy for a small handful of geeks (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course).

    And thanks for saying that, Steven. I thought I was the only one who wasn’t getting it.

  4. Seems that the particularly early adopterish (that so isn’t a word) products that mass-market players launch (i.e. Google Base) don’t generally hit the mark. Maybe they should stop trying to continue their strategy of letting entrepreneurs do the bleeding edge innovating and see what works before they take it over and re-launch as a mass-market play. The Web marketing equivalent of letting someone else throw the pasta against the wall and seeing what sticks.

  5. Maybe only geeks will want to wire together the RSS feeds but once they do, other people can take advantage of the remixed feeds. So you can imagine some people who just assemble pieces, some people who integrate data (via something like pipes), and some people who actually build the software that allows the data integration.

    So I see this as being one more piece that puts in place the infrastructure for everyone to make mashups.

  6. I think you are probably right, Anne. And I hope someone puts together some that I can use, because I wandered around in Pipes for awhile this morning trying to figure out how to do it and it made my head hurt, so I stopped :-)

  7. My head hurts, too. I’ve been back three times since this was first announced, and it’s just too hard.

    Tim O’Reilly said it was programming for the masses. I got excited about that. But now it feels less like programming for the mass and more like masses of programming.

    The idea is hugely compelling to me. That’s why I keep going back, hoping I can figure it out. Sure, I can copy someone else’s application, but there’s no fun in that.

    Guess I’ll have to wait for someone to come up with the dummies version.

  8. My feelings exactly, Dominic.

  9. Oh well, I’m still really impressed with Pipes. But I probably got it quicker as I do Flash ActionScript and web design (both relatively simple stuff compared to actual programming).

    But still, I can’t make heads or tails of the UI in Second Life for creating objects…

  10. Glad to hear you say that about Second Life too, Jason. That one makes my head hurt too :-)

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