popfly.jpg Loath to ever be left out of a sandbox Yahoo! and Google have already begun to play in, last Friday Microsoft brought mash-up tool Popfly to the light of day. Like its predecessors Yahoo! Pipes and Google's RSS API, Popfly promises to be the Web mash-up builder "for the rest of us." The purpose of Popfly is to enable non-professionals to play software developer without having to learn code. This is because Microsoft discovered people had trouble using Visual Studio Web Express on account of the code-writing aspect. So expect this mash-up tool to be stupid-proof. For the record, the company is considering a separate business-oriented one that will probably be more complex. Still trudging through alpha, Popfly requires a Silverlight installation and may work a little funny on Firefox 2.0 and Macs. (What were you expecting?) But that aside, and despite a long list of "Yes, yes, we know" issues, Popfly seems otherwise very interesting. Popfly provides a visual way to build a website or add features, like mash-ups, to blogs or pages. And while the service is written in Silverlight, widgetized icons are written in Silverlight, JavaScript and XML. This code can be modified, but note: you cannot type in your own HTML and JavaScript. If you must have your own HTML and JavaScript on pain of death, create a mash-up with the code of your choice and then use the Custom HTML view from the Mash-Up Creator. Widgetized icons represent tasks, services or separate feeds. One, for example, could display slide show photos. These icons are for building your solution -- Popfly includes a building tool that enables people to create apps by dragging and dropping these icons into a design page. There is also a functionality for changing parameters like the search term or how quickly a person wants to query a photo site. And tutorials help users combine information from popular Web sites, be they Microsoft or others. Upon completing a widget, Popfly creates an HTML snippet for easy embedding, sharing and modification. Finally, Popfly includes a building tool for people who want to create Web sites from the ground-up but don't want to learn HTML. The tool utilizes the same templates and layout tools used for Microsoft Office Live. The service is currently invitation-only, but Windows Live ID-holders can log in to request one. At this point we're tempted to say, "Now that the three big players are in the arena, let the monster mash-up begin!" but we doubt it'll be all that exciting moving forward. We do, however, dig Microsoft's competitive choice of decor. Those hot pink ducks? Risqué. We're definitely not in Pipes anymore... Thanks to CNet News for the info. Check Popfly out here.