Widgets, in the context of the Internet computing world, was not a word that was in the common lexicon until sometime last year. The growth in the use of widgets has been rapid. It is now possible to build compelling start pages using widgets (Netvibes and Pageflakes are two examples). In the context of mobiles, Nokia has launched Widsets.
If you sit in front of a computer at work, chances are there are certain Web sites that you monitor throughout the day, every dayto check e-mail, weather, stock portfolios or sports stats. But, thanks to widgets, taking multiple steps to track down headlines in one place and then check your e-mail in another may seem woefully outdated this time next year. These mini-applicationsalso called gadgetsare simple bits of code, easily dragged onto a desktop or pasted into a personal page, where they are constantly updated with whatever information you want. Its the exact opposite of what the Web used to be, explains Om Malik, a tech journalist and founding editor of gigaom.com. Last month Malik and Niall Kennedy, another tech blogger, organized and hosted Widgets Livean entire sold-out conference devoted to the topic (in, where else?, San Francisco). Widgets, he says, bring the Web to you. Think of it as tech jewelrybling for your blog; ice for your desktop.
If 2006 was all about social networks, user-generated content and YouTube, then its a fair bet that 2007 will be about further personalizing life online.
Its better than advertising, says Om Malik. Its in front of your eyes constantly; that brand becomes your brand. Your widgets certainly dont need to come branded, however. Indeed, thats the whole point: to help the World Wide Web become your Web.
RSS is one of the underlying technologies for widgets. In fact, widgets are helping make RSS mainstream in an invisible sort-of way. As Pete Cashmore puts it:
RSS Wont Go Mainstream (But Widgets Will Explode): The tech community has been saying for years now that RSS feeds are set to go mainstream in a big way. The argument is something like: RSS is becoming standard in the browser and the OS, so users will adopt it. They wont. Some mainstream users still havent learned the difference between the search box and the address bar – this little orange button will be underutilized.
In some respects, however, feeds will go mainstream. Theyll just be hidden behind the scenes. Mainstream adoption of RSS readers wont be a huge trend, but the delivery of constantly updated content, particularly via embeddable widgets, will become massive.
Snipperoo adds about what to expect in 2007: As 2007 will be the Year of Widgets, it’s likely we’ll see an explosion of widget specific startups as opposed to startups that have a widget strategy (as, of course, they all will) Some smart kid will write a blog and/or social network platform that consists entirely of widgets. You create an interface by choosing which parts to put where. Suddenly you are in total control of your platform.