Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Book Review: Pro Web 2.0 Mashups

Ralph LeVan looks at a comprehensive work on how to consume and repurpose Web services.

Raymond Yee has produced a comprehensive book on how to consume and repurpose Web services, even for Web sites that do not intentionally expose Web services. The book is broken into four sections; understanding how to use Web content, understanding Web services, combining the data from multiple services (mashups) and detailed examples of specific mashup opportunities.

Web Services are a complicated topic and this book does an excellent job of describing how to use them. However, their complexity is reflected in the complexity and volume of the text.

The table of contents and introduction to Pro Web 2.0 Mashups are available online [1]. It includes an excellent chapter-by-chapter summary of the book. The code developed in the work is also available online [2]. The book is full of details about how to access specific Web services and provides URLs as examples of services and examples of uses of those services. Unfortunately, those URLs cannot be tried out in a book and are, for the most part, impossible to retype by hand. The electronic version of the book is available for an additional $10 fee.

This book is not an easy read. The initial section is suitable for intermediate developers and would-be developers. The subsequent sections are quite advanced; if you didn’t understand the first section, you don’t need to attempt the later ones. The examples in the book use JavaScript, PHP and Python. They are readable without a deep familiarity with those languages, but the reader must be comfortable with Web programming for them to make much sense.

Part 1: Remixing Information Without Programming

This section introduces the topic of mashups and the fundamental tools of the mashup: Web services, feeds and tagging. Chapter 1 examines Housingmaps.com, Google Maps and the LibraryLookup bookmarklet as examples of mashups. Chapter 2 demonstrates how to control the behaviour of a Web site through a careful understanding of the site’s URLs. Chapter 3 discusses tagging and Folksonomies as simple access mechanisms to a site’s content. Chapter 4 describes the various types of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds as simple sources of easily consumed data. Chapter 5 uses the moving of content into and out of blogs as an example of integration through APIs.

Part 2: Remixing a Single Web Application Using Its API

This section introduces APIs as a more formal method for consuming Web services; as opposed to the informal examination of URLs and URL hacking that was used in the first section. Chapter 6 focuses on the Flickr REST API.and the use of PHP to generate requests and process the XML responses. Chapter 7 moves on to look at XML-RPC and SOAP and REST-ful APIs in general. Of particular interest is the description of the Atom Publishing Protocol (APP) which was designed for maintaining blogs but is finding use in a number of applications. Chapter 8 examines JavaScript, the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX).

Part 3: Making Mashups

This section uses the skills developed in the previous sections to combine information from multiple Web services into a mashup. Chapter 9 introduces ProgrammableWeb as a source of information about Web service APIs and mashups. It uses ProgrammableWeb to investigate mashups in several topic areas. Chapter 10 describes the creation of a specific mashup of Flickr and Google Maps. Chapter 11 introduces some tools, the Google Mashup Editor (GME) and Yahoo! Pipes, to simplify the creation of the mashup. Chapter 12 uses the experience of consuming Web content to inform the process of exposing Web content for consumption.

Part 4: Exploring Other Mashup Topics

This section looks at more complex mashup opportunities. Chapter 13 looks at a number of mapping APIs, while Chapter 14 looks at bookmarking. Chapter 15 covers calendaring systems and Chapter 16 considers online storage systems. Chapter 17 looks at OpenOffice and Microsoft Office as sources of XML content through APIs. Chapter 18 covers microformats for embedding data in Web pages. Finally, Chapter 19 examines search APIs.


I can’t imagine a more comprehensive book on mashups. This book would make a great textbook for a class on the topic. If you are a developer of mashups, this book must be in your reference library. However, if you’re looking for a gentle introduction to the topic, it may be more than you want.


  1. Raymond Yee, Pro Web 2.0 Mashups - Remixing Data and Web Services, 2008 (.pdf format) http://apress.com/resource/bookfile/3917
  2. Associated code (in zipped file) http://apress.com/resource/bookfile/3901

Author Details

Ralph LeVan
Senior Research Scientist

Email: levan@oclc.org

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