Part I – Widgets are the New Web Pages

This is the first installment in a three part series discussing Widgets. In this first installment, we discuss the emergence of Widgets. In the next part of this discussion, we will discuss open problem areas in the Widget space. This series will conclude with a look into the future of Widget technologies. Enjoy!Once upon a time (1993-94), the future of the web was uncertain. There was no MySpace, Google, Amazon, or EBay. Yahoo was just a twinkle in the eyes of Stanford Graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo. Even more shocking, corporations questioned the validity of leveraging the web as an effective mechanism to reach consumers. “Why would anyone want to spend time online?,â€? the asked. “How will we make money?

We all saw how that turned out.

Fast forward to 2006 – the Web is back in a whole new way. And a new mechanism is surfacing with the same game changing ramifications as the web page. Ironically, this mechanism is enabled by the very same technologies whose value was once called into question by corporate America. This new medium is the Web Widget.

Want your blog readers to know about the stocks you are watching? Grab a Yahoo Finance Badge. Want to put a music player on your MySpace? Grab a Streampad Playlist Widget. Want your friends to check out a hot new video you saw? Grab a YouTube Player Widget. Widgets are the web ala carte. More importantly, users are leveraging Widgets to build increasingly customized experiences on StartPages, Social Networks, Blogs and other emerging online content aggregation platforms. And, as it happens, content aggregation platforms are meeting this burgeoning demand by enabling the use of Widgets. Typepad has opened up their sidebar to Widget Developers. Blogger is Beta testing page layouts with “Elements.â€? Tagworld has introduced a Widget gallery. The list goes on and on…

Although there are a number of terms used to describe Web Widgets (Modules, Gadgets, Badges, Elements, Capsules, Snippets…), one thing is certain – these seemingly innocuous little modules are popping up all across the World-Wide-Web. For now, the use of Widgets has been limited to the techno-elite. However that is all about to change. The same corporations that were unsure of the value of the original web, are rushing to embrace this new medium. Marketers are encouraging them to capitalize on the new channel, recognizing the foundational role that Widgets will play in the emerging Web as a Platform. Just as web services enable developers to mix and match digital content and services to deliver new applications, Widgets will enable non-technical users to mix and match pieces of the web to create custom experiences for themselves and others.

In the next installment, we will discuss some of the emerging problem areas surrounding the Widgets. Although Widgets seem simple, nothing could be further from the truth. Stay tuned, fellow web-slingers.

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  • […] New blog from my buddy (and former client) Hooman Rafar – Widgify. He’s even started a wikipedia page on widgets. Though I could debate the semantics and say they’re really called ‘modules’ or ‘gadgets’ – as well. But who’s counting? […]

  • Hey Hooman,

    Definitely looking forward to the rest of your 3-part series.


  • Hooman Radfar

    Rob, thanks for the vote of confidence. Really looking forward to pursuing this blog. Many of our partners expressed an interest in reading more about the space as a mechanism to reach consumers. Hopefully, smart folks like you and Marc C. can will fuel some good discussions and help the world convert to Widgetism.