Pipes: Where’s the Money?

Let me preface this by stating that one of the Yahoo! Pipes core team members, Kevin Cheng, is close personal friend – I have the deepest respect for him and his team’s work, and not just because he managed to survive three years living in the same house as me.

That said, as I look at the Pipes product I just don’t get it. I mean, technologically, I understand the concept – a service to allow you to re-mix RSS content any way you want it, analogous to what UNIX pipes do with stdin and stdout. Neat-o! I can think of many uses for this in my own daily news/data-gathering routine. There’s just one problem…it’s not something for which I’d pay any money. And I don’t see them adopting other measures to monetize this property.

Now, Yahoo! is a big organization and it has many other places to make money. This could easily be positioned as a “thought leadership” exercise designed to grab the hearts and minds of the developers, lock them into Yahoo!’s “platform”, thus presenting the opportunity to monetize the platform and development community at a later time. But it’s that “later” part that bothers me. We seem to be gradually drifting back to the time when users/eyeballs not revenue were the primary indicator of the value of a business. I suppose that they could extract value from the mining the types of pipes people create, but that seems to be a stretch.

I guess I’m just curious if anyone knows how Yahoo! (or similar organizations) evaluates these types of projects from a business perspective?

(I just noticed how may quote marks I used in this post – a worrisome sign, in and of itself.)