Usually, mashups are web applications that can be created quickly using standard web services (e.g., REST) and components (e.g., Widgets).
There are three kinds of Mashup tools: front end, back end and integrated. The differences are:
- Front end mashup tools: these tools help build web front ends like dashboards using widgets/gadgets and little to no programming (iGoogle, PageFlakes)
- Back end mashup tools: these tools combine web-accessible data and services into more useful web services that can be called easily using a REST-ful interface (Kapow, Yahoo pipes)
- Integrated mashup tools: these tools make it easy to build end-to-end web applications that link web widgets to data and services.
- Do you want to create a visual dashboard from existing widgets? Try a front-end mashup tool. These tools make it easy to create a personal dashboard that tracks your stocks, local weather, the time in 51 timezones and the current price of titanium.
- Are you wanting to turn web-accessible stuff (like ebay auctions or linkedin contacts) into a web service API? Try a back-end mashup tool to get at data programmatically that you otherwise have to do by hand (and mouse).
- Do you need to create an end-to-end web app like a dashboard or simple business portal? Try an integrated mashup tool to build applications quickly and with minimal programming. Integrated mashup tools are effectively the modern version of MS Access for the web.
Here are five free, open source mashup solutions you might want to check out: