I’ve been playing with Zembly and I love it. Zembly is a simple and social way to a-zemble (get it?) the best widgets and mash-ups. Zembly partners with other great services that I love (like Dapper) to enable you to extract information from your favourite websites and use them to build widgets, mash-ups and apps for the iPhone, Facebook and meebo amongst others. It’s quick and it’s easy and because Zembly comes with a whole lot of infrastructure baked-in, you don’t need to think about hosting, or scaling the architecture, because it is all in the cloud and taken care of.
Zembly is proving a breakthrough by really thinking through usability for developers: how do you make it really simple for developers to socially build social apps, and remove all the things that typically block them from doing that?
As you code your widgets (yes, you do need to hack a little to make the apps), you can clone other widgets that Zemblers have made, and tailor them to your own purposes. Zembly is part of Sun, and as you’d expect, there is some great scalable in-the-cloud infrastructure behind it. It has competition in the likes of Sproutbuilder (not to be confused with Sproutcore, which Apple used as part of the MobileMe rollout).
You can find an interesting interview with Zembly’s CTO, Todd Fast. He mentions the exponentially growing number of Facebook apps, going from 24,000 to 30,000 and above. He says that Zembly is looking at building niche applications for interesting special-interest groups — long-tail applications — by bringing the threshold for building these applications down. He also says that most social platforms, even the open ones, are very hetereogenous and fragmented. Zembly’s answer is to try to build small re-usable pieces, that you can play, standing on the shoulders of giants. He also explains why he feels that most developers don’t want to think too hard about how to scale their applications, whether it be in the form of databases with millions of rows or allowing tens of thousands of users or the analytics that measure the success of the applications. The latter functionality allows developers to measure social statistics: what kinds of users are installing the application and how, alongside measures of how virally the application is being installed.
All pretty cool and a lot of fun to play with. Zembly is currently in private beta, but if you put your name down, I think you’ll find you don’t have to wait long.