Widgets: Definition

A defined by Wikipedia, a Web Widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications. Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe Flash or JavaScript programming languages.

From a less technical standpoint, Widgets are the most recent embodiment of highly distributable Web media. Widgets permit users to separate the content from the Web page, allowing users to implant them on all types of pages, from personalized portal home pages to blogs to personal pages on social networking sites like MySpace, Friendster or Facebook. Other platforms include the desktop and mobile phone. There are several different categories of widgets:

Web Widgets are used to place content on personal websites, blogs and social network pages to provide interactive services. Users easily add widgets with no programming knowledge required. Web Widgets are becoming the foremost method for users to personalize their blogs and web pages.

Desktop Widgets

Also know as gadgets, gizmos, or desklets, there are two main classes of widgets: Desktop widgets and Web widgets. Desktop widgets are small applications that run on a desktop and usually (but not always) require the user to download and install an “engine” in order to run them. Yahoo(TM), Google(TM), Apple(TM) and Microsoft(TM) all have developed widget “engines.” Web widgets are “sections” that can be inserted in any Web page, such as a personal blog, a MySpace(TM) page, an eBay(TM) auction, or an online store. Each of these two types of widgets can be built using multiple platforms, which can make for a confusing development environment.

Mobile Widgets are mini applications that run on mobile phones, PDA’s and other portable devices. This is a mindboggling sized marketplace for widgets. As described on the Omniture website, “According to mobile industry research, worldwide shipments of smartphones are expected to grow from 164.7M units to 363.3M units in 2012. At the same time, marketers are purchasing more mobile advertising to reach this growing audience. Mobile advertising spend is expected to sky-rocket from $1.7B in 2007 to $12.8B by 2011. Mobile marketers and web analysts are challenged to keep up with this explosive growth in the mobile internet and target their messages better to an audience that’s always on the go. “  Future applications of widgets include integration with IPTV, video games and virtual reality.

TV Widgets are a relatively new concept. Services such as the Yahoo Widget Engine and the Widget Bazaar from Verizon on the FiOS platform are quickly emerging as the “App Stores” for Internet Connected Television. Samsung, Sony, LG, Visio and others have released big screen, internet connected televisions that have “built in” widget integration. Yahoo claims that over 4,000 developers have requested development kits and are in various stages of creating widgets for its platform.

Widget History

The first product called Web Widgets was made and marketed by V_Graph Inc, back in 1995. It consisted of an HTTP component and a web browser component (and yes this was about a year before Microsoft converted Internet Explorer into a component). Since that time even Firefox has become available as a component for integration into larger applications. Web Widgets was originally developed as part of the Object Zone toolkit. The V_Graph Web Widget page can be found here: Over the years browser developers have included access to their own HTTP objects. Modern web developers have acknowledged the utility of having a separate HTTP object that communicates with web servers from within web pages.


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