Proto is a new application for building "desktop mashups". The desktop/Web hybrid theme is one we've been exploring in recent months on Read/WriteWeb, so Proto is an interesting twist on this. The site offers a visual building environment, where you can "combine web services like Yahoo! Maps and Salesforce.com with desktop apps, like iTunes and Outlook."Normally when we discuss mashups, we're talking about browser-based mashups (and usually they involve Google Maps!). But
Jeb Boniakowski is the co-founder of Proto and he emailed me to tell me more about the service. He calls mashups "situational apps" and his vision for them is "one in which users combine data and services from all over the place (web, desktop, intranet) and publish the results of their work back out to those types of endpoints, for further sharing, reuse, etc."
You don't necessarily need to be a programmer to develop Proto mashups, due to the graphical interface and drag-and-drop functions. A good example of a Proto mashup is this Salesforce.com app - which generates a report "through a series of calls to the Salesforce.com web services and then filtering, aggregating, merging results, and reporting on Proto's side..." Also check out this Post iTunes track to Twitter mashup, and a YouTube mashup.
What's more Proto is currently running a mashup contest, giving away everyone's favorite prize - an iPod - every day for a month. Jeb told me they're giving away 25 - and the chances of winning are high, given that Proto is still under the radar of most people. So mashup developers should get stuck in and send in an entry. Jeb has even suggested an idea based on a recent R/WW post: a custom tool to analyze the differences in the results from the top 100 alternative search engines for a given set of queries. Excellent idea!