By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
Consider the concept of mashups for a moment: particularly now, in an economic downturn, mashups are a life raft for large and small companies and entrepreneurs trying to stay afloat. Borrowing the technology and functionality of another company and integrating it into an existing business model is a trend that is becoming evermore prevalent in the digital age. Not only is it cost-efficient, it aggregates information in new and interesting ways that are re-shaping the way we get our news and entertainment.
We comprised a list of our top 5 favorite mashups that are interesting, creative, and meaningful solutions:
Let’s say you’re taking a vacation to Madrid, Spain. You know little about the culture but you’re curious and want to read-up on it before making the complete emersion. JungleThingy is at your service. In a three-step process you can find the location you would like to learn more about in a simple, visual way. This is an example of a company that used two existing services and integrated them into each other to create a new business.
This mashup is the marriage between news and social (“professional”) media–a deal that is quite coveted by traditional news mediums struggling to adapt to the digital medium. But for CNBC, the trasition from TV to Web 2.0 isn’t too far of a stretch. The two are quite a match–as CNBC could use the social networking credibility while providing a news service for LinkedIn users. CNBC will borrow the consumer-generated content from LinkedIn while making it easier for LinkedIn users to share and discuss CNBC content.
Type CNBC or NY Times into the Facebook search tool and you’re likely to get groups where users can join and talk about the news organizations. Type CNN into the search bar and you’re likely to get some different results. CNN launched its mashup with Facebook for the Obama inauguration, where Facebook users could comment on the event in real time using CNN’s Facebook page. Now users become a fan of CNN and receive links to stories that they can then comment in within the Facebook community.
This description is going to be a bit of a consumer review, as I’ve used it for my iPhone. This past week, I went to Philadelphia for a vacation and on my way there, I downloaded the “lite” version of Twitterific. While on the road, I was able to use the application to take photos, write about them, and give the exact coordinates of my location and post them to my Twitter feed. So, if anyone wanted to re-trace my adventure or if they wanted to see any of my pit-stops, they could look it up on Google Maps. This might seem creepy and a bit big-brother, but it’s completely in the users control, so if they do not wish to have their location published on their Twitter feed, they can opt-out.
Wow. Comprehensive mashup. TrackThis needs to be if they’re going to track your packages (with any number of carriers) to your preferred social network. Traditionally, you might have gotten an e-mail with a tracking code and a link to the carrier. That system doesn’t work if you want your friends to be keyed-in on your purchase adventure (from provider to your doorstep). Simply put your tracking number, name of package, carrier and means of notification and you’re set. Simple, easy and interesting.
As we’ve found with this list of mashups, there are entire businesses created from existing APIs. So really, it’s about taking a new approach to finding business solutions. Instead of creating everything in-house, why not mix and match–finding that right combination that makes sense. For example, if your company is lacking on the social networking end, instead of creating your own virtual village, you can leverage an established community. Whatever the combination or functionality of the API mashup, businesses are latching onto the concept as it is a practical way to leverage and build your business in a recessionary environment.