Intel is to launch a browser extension that allows users to create mashups. The company said that the tool would help users enhance sites they visit with customised information ranging from geographical data to the leg room available on specific planes.

The new Intel Mash Maker is made up of various widgets that can understand the meaning of the website they are on and enhance existing content based on a user's preferences and interests, Intel said. The company has launched a public beta of the technology at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

"The basic idea of Mash Maker is a tool that allows normal users to make the web how they want it," said Robert Ennals, senior researcher at Intel Research Berkeley and an architect of the product. "Most of the mashup tools out there now are about creating new things, new sites and new applications. Mash Maker turns existing websites into mashups. If I'm browsing CNN, the suggestion tool bar will suggest ways to make the website better. It will then enhance the page by inserting a Google map that shows where these news stories are appearing in the world. It is like turning the whole web into Wikipedia."

The tool, which was tested by 8,000 users during a closed beta period, includes a suggestion bar for Internet Explore 7 and Firefox 3 that shows users new mashups for a web page based on their interests and preferences he added.

A built-in extractor in the tool "teaches" Mash Maker what is useful on the web page including data, images and maps which are then themselves subcategories for future mashups.

An open application programming interface allows users to write their own widgets and add them to other pages. For example, Mash Maker can be added to a travel site to show the leg room for all flights that are displayed in a flight search, Intel said. Or, a user could add a map, a user rating bar and a bar with the number of stars a hotel has to a hotel search site.

After a user creates a personal mashup by assembling various widgets, it can be saved and passed on to other interested users who visit the same page. Initially, Mash Maker works with 1,000 web pages with the most traffic, Intel added.

The tool also includes a wiki-style database where users can point and click to an interface and help to "teach" the meaning of content on a web page.