What Is a Web Mashup?

An intro to what mashups are, plus a few examples

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A web mashup is just what it sounds like. You can think of it as web content that has been "mashed up" or mixed together from various sources so it can be shown differently. This is done by a web application, which takes information from one or more sources and presents it in a new way or with a unique layout.

This information can come in various different formats. It could be news articles, blog content, photos, GIFs, videos, customer reviews or location points.

Confused? It is actually not quite so difficult to understand as the technical definition might make you believe. The key driving power of the internet is information, and a mashup is an application that takes that information and shows it to you in a unique way.

Examples of Mashups

Back when the Nintendo Wii came out, it was difficult to find in stores. A web mashup might have helped consumers by taking the data from various stores like EB Games and other websites like Ebay to combine their information with Google Maps so that it could be presented in an easy-to-use interface for finding a Wii in your area.

Trendsmap is one example of a service that was a popular mashup, which combined Twitter's trending topics with data from another Twitter trend site and displayed it on a Google Maps-powered map. Today, however, trends on Trendsmap are calculated through the service's own algorithm.

Many mobile apps also function as mashups. For example, a restaurant app might combine menu information with location data to tell you about what's good to eat at nearby places.

What's So Great About Mashups?

The benefit of mashups is that they provide people with more useful and interesting ways to consume information. Information on its own from a single source might already be useful, but its usefulness can be enhanced and taken to new levels when combined with one or more related sources.

It's all about how the information from multiple sources interact with each other. You can try if you want to figure out how one piece of information relates to another piece all on your own, but it sure is handy to just look to a website or mobile app to tell you instantly.

How is a Web Mashup Built?

The web is continually growing more open and more social. Because of this, many websites have opened up programming interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to get at their core information.

A prime example of this is Google Maps, which is a very popular interface to use in mashups. Google allows developers to access their maps through API's. The developer can then combine these maps with another stream of data to create something new and unique.

Must a Web Mashup Have Contain Data From Multiple Sources?

The name "mashup" is derived from the idea of combining data from two or more sources and displaying it with a unique look. However, newer mashups sometimes only use a single source of information.

A good example of a mashup with only one source is EmojiTracker, which only pulls data from Twitter. This website looks at all the emojis being used on Twitter in real time and functions as an instant counter for all the different emojis.

Updated by: Elise Moreau