Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line.Take BoingBoing, for example. You might enjoy one author's work, and find another not to your liking. Pipes provides an easy way to only read specific author(s), and filter out all other posts. Or, if the only subject you're interested in here is Disneyphilia, or ukeleles, or cat macros, or nanotechnology -- or you can't stand any of those, but like other stuff here -- Pipes provides easy ways to filter in or out particular content.
I'm sure other people could come up with far more interesting BoingBoing-related examples, and those are really pretty crude ideas of what this thing's capable of. Here's something else: the most popular Pipe right now is called New York Times through Flickr...
This Pipe takes the New York Times homepage, passes it thru Content Analysis and uses the keywords to find Photos at Flickr.
That's pretty badass.
Reactions from a number of internet-thinkers are very positive. Tim O'Reilly has an extensive post about why he likes Pipes, and he sees it as a manifestation of ideas that have been circulating for some time now:
[It] is a milestone in the history of the internet. It's a service that generalizes the idea of the mashup, providing a drag and drop editor that allows you to connect internet data sources, process them, and redirect the output. Yahoo! describes it as "an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator" that allows you to "create feeds that are more powerful, useful and relevant." While it's still a bit rough around the edges, it has enormous promise in turning the web into a programmable environment for everyone.Read the whole post here -- it's a good one, and provides much to chew on: Link.
Before I get into the details of what it is and how it works, I want to give a little background on why I'm so excited. This is something I've been waiting nearly ten years for.