Yahoo Pipes – could do better

I’ve been playing with Yahoo’s latest toy – see Yahoo Pipes in 10 easy steps.

It’s a very good example of a Web 2 tool. While it is still in beta it already allows you to combine / filter / clone and edit RSS streams. (RSS = a summary of a website, offered by many sites, including this one – just look for the orange logo). In the same way that SQL queries a database, Pipes allows you to query Websites (or to be more precise RSS streams) for the information that you want.

Yahoo Pipes is worth checking out for the following reasons:

  • The user interface (finally) puts Gmail to shame. Just how do they generate the dynamic / curvy pipes linking the boxes?
  • It’s completely graphic. Users with at a ‘power user of Excel’ level can generate streams that would previously have taken an experienced programmer a number of days.
  • It’s another piece on the Web2 infrastructure. All other desktop apps have migrated to the web. It was just a matter of time before developer tools did as well. Does it make sense for you? Your call.

Yahoo Pipes Logo
Pipes, for the reasons below, is not yet going to displace teams of Java people who do nothing but code RSS streams all day. Before, the choice on many IT projects was Build , Buy or use Open Source (or various combinations of those three). Online Web 2 apps and services (of which pipes is only one example) gives a fourth option to put into the mix. So what does Yahoo pipes need to overcome the ‘toy’ label and become a ‘serious’ option for IT projects?

  • The problem is, it’s free. How do Yahoo intend making money out of Pipes? More accurately , will they make enough money so that my project can still use it in 3 years time.
  • You’re stuck with Yahoo. If you build against pipes, you’re stuck with them. Even in the database world, it is possible, if expensive, to switch product supplier. I’d love Yahoo to open source pipes to solve this dilemma, and allow them to build a business around the ‘pipes hosting’ part.
  • It’s completely graphic. This is mainly a good thing but no doubt most developers would still like the option to see and edit the generated code.
  • It’s hard to extend. If there is a way of extending it with my own ‘widgets’ , then I missed it. I can host RSS-generating code on my own server, but this detracts from pipes overall ease of use.

What do you think – will Yahoo Pipes take off , or be quietly abandonded?


  1. I love the filtering capabilities of yahoo Pipes
    I have not found that service in any other provider.

    I do not think it is hard to extend, it basically generates new rss that you can throw to another filter, agreggator, widget, etc…

  2. I’d be using it in a showcase project right now if the one thing I needed, regexes that work with html markup, actually worked.

    It’s a known bug which they say they are fixing but it stops me dead in my tracks and just makes it an interesting toy for the moment.

    It also kept losing my edits which was very frustrating.

    I find it bizarre that the support forums for a power-RSS tool like pipes do not have RSS feeds per discussion thread! Maybe I could write a pipe to do it 🙂

  3. @Carlos – I’ve still to get into the filtering – perhaps to filter out mentions on twitter in blogs (!)

    @Conor – does this make you a pipes senior developer? 🙂 I hadn’t seen that problem , not the losing of edits.

    What I love to be able to do is take my entire set of rss feeds (as opml), filter them and sort according to some preference , but keep them as individual feeds. Seems I can do all but the last item ..

  4. The fact that Yahoo! Pipes makes it possible to convert XML into JSON makes it ideal for mashups that need to work around cross domain access restrictions. I shall be using Yahoo! Pipes extensively where I need a JSON data feed with a callback function but only have a XML data feed provided.

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