Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Web 2.5 :: The Year of the widget (Part I)

“My prediction would be that Web 3.0 will ultimately be seen as applications which are pieced together. There are anumber of characteristics: the applications are relatively small, the data is in the cloud, the applications can run onany device, PC or mobile phone, the applications are very fast and they're very customizable. Futhermore, theapplications are distributed virally: literally by social networks, by email. ”
            Eric Schmidt, CEO Google (see below for his video)

Part I, what does this mean of consumers?

For consumers, interconnected and interoperable widgets or gadgets allows for users to completely customize their online/offline/mobile experience. Let's use Flickr as an example of interconnected/interoperable widgets. I may load my flickr photos into my facebook environment, I may load my flickr photos into a niche social network (my family social network), and embed a flickr slideshow in this blog. All from one flickr environment. The interesting part of this is that these environments don't need to synchronize because the apps are views into the flickr stream. I change/update my photos in flickr, they get changed/updated everywhere. Think of these widgets/gadgets as an IMAP implementation for email.

Another simple example, is the remember the milk plug-in for my google app's gmail interface. I can now view, create, edit my tasks right from my email interface. Again, just a modify/add/delete (MAD) view into the tasks. Remember the milk provides the basic platform and allows for different widgets or views into the information.

Now if flip this around to content digestion, one example is NetVibes ( provides an environment for me to embed my remember the milk tasks, facebook inbox, gmail, google reader aggregated feeds, free/busy calendars, RSS feeds from my favorite authors, and monitor my ebay auctions. I can access all my information from a browser, iphone, blackberry what ever the consumer chooses.

The consumer also can disseminate large quantities of information to their friends, co-workers, family very easily. In a nut shell, enabling a customized and personally relevant digital ecosystem.

While I think this is a huge step forward for the WWW, I think that a lot of the widgets that are being produced are horrible from a usability and design perspective. Because users now have a choice for almost everything, usability, interaction design, experience design become the differentiator. Take for example, which is easier to use Yahoo Maps or MapQuest? Just because it is a mini-application/widget/gadget, does not mean that it needs mini usability or mini design.

For part II, I will discuss the business value of delivering widgets/gadgets (ROI, marketing, customer insight)
For part III, I will discuss how to leverage existing tools and platforms to deliver widgets/gadgets. (NING, salesforce)

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