“Someone told Daniel [Raffel] tonight that if they ever wanted to work at Yahoo! they would want to work on Pipes. I think that is the ultimate compliment.” — Pasha Sadri, co-creator of Yahoo Pipes, in 2007

Want to know whether the latest logged earthquakes were near you? Aggregate 100 top news sites, but only see items that mention cats? Get a steady stream of sport scores, scraped from sites that don’t offer an RSS feed? Find a rental apartment amidst those posted on Craigslist and other online apartment listings that fits your price range and is near a park? Exclude stories on topics you’re not interested in from publications you already follow? 

Yahoo Pipes—or, officially, Pipes by Yahoo!, a rare switcheroo of the company’s name—was a service that offered all that and more in a single platform. Individual “Pipes,” as it were, were both personal and public—the service seemed like a portent of the future that techno-utopians were then predicting. But like many great products and services of its time, it never quite came to pass.

Also like many great ideas in the mid-’90s to mid-’00s—that nostalgic first decade of the commercial internet—Pipes started with one person who built a small team to knock out some code that they thought might just change the world… or at least kick a dent in it.

Intrigued? Read the full story.

(And root around for the Easter eggs!)

This snippet is a preview of a full-length article by Glenn Fleishman. Glenn has written about technology since the 1980s and appeared over his career in The Atlantic, The Economist, and the New York Times. In recent years, he’s focused heavily on printing history, specializing in the production of daily comics. His letterpress-printed book Six Centuries of Type & Printing charts the technology that drove European-style movable type printing to become a global phenomenon.