Microsoft Popfly Gets Squashed

Microsoft has announced that in late August it will be discontinuing availability and support for its once popular mashup creation application Popfly. In a blog post, team leader John Montgomery confirms the internal deadpooling, although he doesn’t call it the way we do. He writes that on August 24, 2009 the Popfly service will be discontinued and all sites, references, and resources will be taken down.

Montgomery points developers to Microsoft’s Web Platform and Xbox development program as all projects that were created using Popfly will effectively be discontinued completely.

TechCrunch got an early look at the Silverlight-powered application when it debuted in private beta mode over 2 years ago. At the time, mash-up and widget creation tools were all the rage, with Yahoo introducing its Pipes web app just a few months prior. Google got in the game with its Mashup Editor a bit later, but that service never left private beta and the company ultimately announced it would be axing the product last January. Two days ago, the team even reminded developers that it would soon be shutting down.

ProgrammableWeb in its coverage of the discontinuation of Microsoft Popfly points back to a February 2008 article in the NY Times, in which the newspaper talks about Montgomery and Popfly in a positive light, with the product manager being lauded as “an example of how it just might be possible for someone to teach dinosaurs to dance”.

Last fall, his team introduced an intriguing software Web service called Popfly that is intended to make it possible for nonprogrammers to plug together Web components and data sources quickly to create useful new Web services. For example, news feeds could be added to digital images, or data lists to maps.

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.

Web 2.0 Conference organizer Tim O’Reilly also gets quoted in the article, and he apparently expressed skepticism early on:

“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.”

Seattle-based tech blog TechFlash got a bit more information out of Microsoft regarding Popfly’s sudden death. In an e-mail to editor Todd Bishop, Redmond says Popfly was simply no longer part of its refocused strategy, which was outlined in light of the dismal economic situation.

(Thanks to everyone who sent this in as a tip)