Widgetbox offers widgets with value

* Widgetbox widgets

Last issue I was critical of the idea of widgets. I failed at the time to attempt a definition of widgets so here goes: widgets (or gadgets, or whatever you want to call 'em) are small applications that share a common runtime management and or service core that is either provided by a browser (e.g. Opera Widgets) or by a stand-alone application (e.g. Yahoo Widgets).

Today I have a new entrant in this space although as you'll see the vendor's approach is rather different in that its widgets are based within browser pages and while being focused on blogging, also have a valuable role on regular Web sites.

The service is called Widgetbox and is published by PostApp.

The service is currently in a private beta phase so I won't be able to give you links into the site but you can request an account using the sign-up form on the home page.

Widgetbox widgets are essentially HTML iframes with content. The content can be simple or complex HTML, Flash, AJAX, ... whatever a developer needs to use to achieve his functionality goals.

The actual widget can be hosted on Widgetbox as long as its output is limited to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If developers want to use other content, they can deliver the widget from their own server.

Currently, widgets have to be approved by PostApp but it has plans for future "private" widgets for limited distribution by developers so that PostApp doesn't have to be involved.

Users who want to deploy a widget select one from the Widgetbox library and set the customization fields, and then paste the generated code into their blog or Web site.

For example, the Widgetbox widget you will find in a recent Gibbsblog posting is a miniature Technorati search results display that refreshes every five minutes.

When you create your widget on the Widgetbox site, you specify the tag to search for and the height and width of the widget display. Widgetbox then presents you with a chunk of HTML code - what you might think of as the wrapper of the widget.

Add that code to your blog or Web site and that's where the widget functionality will be delivered. Current widgets include a Digg RSS Viewer, a Skype status display, a Flickr Photo Badge, and a version of the Bitty Browser (we covered this clever hack last year).There are roughly 78 widgets in total as of writing.

The difference between Widgetbox widgets and other widget systems is subtle: They have a context. Widgetbox widgets add value by being part of a Web page rather than trying to have value on their own.

Widgetbox is currently being offered for free and PostApp intends to always offer some number of free widgets but expects to charge for what will be presumably more sophisticated ones in the future. As advertising can be added to Widgetbox widgets (as you will see in the Gibbsblog example) premium "no ad" widgets will obviously be a potentially lucrative revenue stream for Widgetbox.

Watchout for this service, it has serious potential to not only make widgets valuable but to make some money.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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