Microsoft has announced that in late August it will be discontinuing availability and support for PopFly, its once popular mashup creation tool. As some of you may remember, we originally covered PopFly in May, 2007, shortly after its release as a developer preview.
PopFly’s lead, John Montgomery, posted the news on the PopFly Team Blog, indicating that all PopFly-related resources will be shut down:
Unfortunately, on August 24, 2009 the Popfly service will be discontinued and all sites, references, and resources will be taken down. At that time, your access to your Popfly account, including any games and mashups that you have created, will be discontinued.
According to this article on TechFlash, Microsoft’s decision was influenced by budget cutbacks. Despite PopFly’s potential as a user-friendly mashup tool, it faced skepticism due to its reliance on Microsoft’s Silverlight web platform.
In another post in which we covered PopFly last year, we cited a New York Times article entitled “Mashups Are Breaking the Mold at Microsoft.” At the time, there was quite a bit of interest in PopFly, and according to the article there was a relatively large user base of non-programmers:
Introduced at the Web 2.0 conference last year by Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, Popfly was picked by PC World magazine as one of the most innovative computing and consumer electronics products of 2007. It has garnered more than 100,000 users — the company says the exact number is confidential — and now has a library of more than 50,000 “mashups”: new components or Web pages that have been created in a visual snap-together fashion, like Lego blocks.
Despite its popularity, there were skeptics early on as well. Tim O’Reilly is also quoted in the article:
“Popfly shows me that Microsoft still thinks this is all about software, rather than about accumulating data via network effects, which to me is the core of Web 2.0,” said Tim O’Reilly, the founder and chief executive of O’Reilly Media, a print and online publisher. “They are using Popfly to push Silverlight, rather than really trying to get into the mashup game.”
Its difficult to determine what impact the discontinuation of PopFly will have on the mashup ecosystem, particularly in terms of tools available for non-programmers. Just yesterday Google reminded developers that their Google Mashup Editor will be shutting down next month. Some of the tools still available to users out there include Yahoo! Pipes and Dapper (although Dapper’s mashup tool has taken a backseat to its semantic advertising tool). It’s unfortunate to see that PopFly had a relatively short lifespan, but in the end, we hope that this will also open up opportunities for others to innovate in this space.