WidgetWatch: SpringWidgets at Widgets Live!

That post title must rank as the most use of the word "widget" in a four-word headline.

Anyway, Om's hosting his inaugural Widgets Live! conflab: a first-ever conference dedicated to those little bits and bobs that adorn MySpace pages, blogs, and desktops with tiny, focused streams of content (say, the weather, sports scores, or the three most recent posts from a given site). The GigaOm people are blogging it here, among other places.

Judging by the buzz, the biggest announcement from the conference so far was Fox Interactive's announcement of SpringWidgets. Mike "TechCrunch" Arrington describes SpringWidgets' announcement thusly:

It is a unique offering in the increasingly complicated widget space, although the desktop portion of it only works on the Windows platform. Widget platforms today work on websites (see Google Gadgets and WidgetBox) or the desktop (see Yahoo Widgets). Microsoft has a widget platform that will work on the Vista desktop and also on pages. But no one has created a single widget platform that works on most websites as well as the desktop. That’s what SpringWidgets is launching.

Each widget can be embedded on a website or placed on a desktop. And they are easily shared, so if a website visitor sees a widget they like they can click a link and add it to their own site, or their desktop, or both. That’s an important innovation, and a useful one for websites.

All of which sounded good and exciting, until I visited the SpringWidgets site, and found out that, in order for this magical web-to-desktop widget swapping to work, you needed to install their widget engine on your machine. I assume, given what I've heard of SpringWidgets' demo, that the engine is Flash-based. It'll probably get some traction, given the mighty distribution engine that is MySpace, but this just adds to the widget Babel out there.

Still, the ability to see a widget you like and quickly snap it into your own site is pretty smart (and part of the feature set in my head for my yet-to-be-developed KillerWidgetAppPlatform). Anything that speed the sharing of widgets is nothing but good news for microcontent. Now, if only we could break down the barriers between the widget engines of the world (web and desktop). Mac OS X has a native widget engine. Vista will come with one of their own, too. Widgets on web pages all descend from either the Ajax or Flash family trees. I'd love to see a way for a widget maker to target the whole lot of them without YAWE (Yet Another Widget Engine).


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