Microsoft’s ‘Popfly’ Flies Out: Game Over

It’s only fitting — at least as far as bad puns go — that the end of Microsoft’s mashup tool, Popfly, should come in the middle of baseball season.

Popfly, which went into alpha testing in May 2007 and moved into beta in November of the same year, will be shut down next month, according to a notice on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Popfly Web site Thursday.

“Unfortunately, on August 24th, 2009, the Popfly service will be discontinued, all resources will be taken down, and access to your Popfly account, including games and mashups, will cease,” the notice said.

The tool, which was built on Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, never exited beta test.

When it began beta testing, in October 2007, Microsoft touted Popfly as designed to let non-technical users easily create mashups – quickly-built composite applications that combine data and functions from more than one application on a single Web page – using Silverlight.

Whereas Silverlight has been progressing, including the launch of Silverlight 3.0 last week, Popfly apparently hasn’t hit any home runs.

Microsoft officials had described Popfly as an easy tool for making mashups. For instance, it might be used to build a Web page for a club or organization, such as a soccer team page that would include a schedule, photos and videos from past games, and directions to upcoming matches, according to one example cited by Microsoft.

Popfly could also take advantage of other technologies and application components, including Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and Live Search services. Advanced users could also use it with Visual Studio Express, the company had said.

Show me the money

Neither the Web site notice, nor a post on the
Popfly team blog
, gave any reason for shutting down the project.

However, a Microsoft spokesperson told in an e-mail that the primary factor was money.

“Like many companies, the economic situation has caused us to refocus and to reevaluate our priorities; while successful and popular, Popfly is not part of our refocused strategy,” the spokesperson said.

“We made some really great progress and learned a lot of lessons that we will apply to our S+S [software-plus-services] offerings and developer tools such as how to operate a large scale service, how beginner developers approach their first projects, and how to cultivate innovative ideas and bring them through the product life cycle,” the spokesperson added.

Silverlight hasn’t been without its share of challenges either. In one notable loss last year, Major League Baseball’s online wing dropped Silverlight use after the season and switched back to Adobe Flash technology.

However, Silverlight streaming media is seen as a key strategic technology among Microsoft executives, particularly Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, so Silverlight would seem to be safe from the same ax that came down on Popfly.

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