RSS and XML feeds might be all the rage for keeping up with your friends’ self-absorbed blog entries or self-absorbed cat photos over at Flickr, Yahoo has rolled out a beta edition of a new hosted service called “Pipes.”
The basic idea behind Pipes is to offer users a visual interface to mixing, matching, and mashing up various RSS and XML data sources available over the Internet to create new, highly-personalized data feeds. Pipes can accept user input—like names, dates, numbers, and locations—and use them to filter information from a variety of sources, construct custom searches and queries, and integrate information from multiple sources into one, concise RSS feed. Right now Pipes only outputs data in RSS format, but Yahoo hopes to expand output options to include badges, maps, and other forms of structured XML data; Yahoo also wants to add support for non-RSS input data, add more processing modules to transform and mutate fetched data, and offer deeper access to the Pipes engine.
Despite the visual configuration environment, Pipes in its current form is distinctly a tool for power users and programmers (the name itself derives from a Unix concept which lets users chain the output of command-line programs to each other to perform complex tasks in a single step) but as the number of pre-formed custom Pipes grows, many of them will be useful to (and, hopefully, tweakable by) the sort of folks who are comfortable with, say, making email filters or constructing search queries.
Current Pipes examples pull together all Yahoo’s official blogs, offer an apartment search capability, offer to find online pictures new a particular place, and aggregate news alerts together. If you’re an RSS fiend, Pipes may be worth checking out; if you’re an XML maven, Pipes might be an interesting forerunner of “Web 2.5.”