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Summary:

For past few days there has been an amazing amount of chatter about widgets – which are transforming themselves into advertising widgets, billboards and what not. Earlier today, for instance Mpire introduced shopping widgets that tap into say eBay and Amazon, and let you sell goods […]

For past few days there has been an amazing amount of chatter about widgets – which are transforming themselves into advertising widgets, billboards and what not. Earlier today, for instance Mpire introduced shopping widgets that tap into say eBay and Amazon, and let you sell goods via Mpire widgets.

As the buzz (or the hype, depending on which side of the debate you sit) reaches cacophonic levels, the big question is: how many damn widgets can you put on your blog or on your MySpace. (According to some estimates, 40% MySpace users have 3.2 widgets on their page!)

The amount of space on a web page, contrary to popular belief is pretty limited. Widgets, it seems are going to face the same challenge as the denizens of Iconistan, those little icons that actually came between the readers and the content. The widget ecosystem might have attracted a lot of money and attention, but not many users. If you checked out WidgetBox, a good proxy for the ecosystem, a typical popular widget has about 300-to-500 subscribers. And amongst those that are popular, they are the ones, which have an element of personal expression.

David Cohen, put it aptlywhen he wrote, “provide something useful to the publisher so they’ll go out of their way to place your brand all over their property.”

A Last.fm widget on my blog, or a little twitter widget (as used by Martin) and Slide.com’s slide shows on MySpace are very different from Mpire.com’s commercial widgets. These are precisely the widgets that are built to last, and have worked well as audience-boosting and branding tools. Will it translate into dollars?

That’s precisely the question one has for commercially oriented widgets. If it is about money, then the money had to be more than what Google is putting a price on.AdSense-widgets are pretty much the barometer now, and if history of advertising is any indication, it is hard to find traction against Google’s money promise.

  1. Nathan Burke Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Excellent points here. When I first started looking at widgets I saw two distinct types: 1) widgets that existed solely as a new way to advertise something without being useful (like a countdown to the launch of Spiderman 3) and 2) widgets that provide a unique value. And since desktop real estate is something valuable to users, you really have to do something different for users to take the time to install and use your widget.

  2. Bingo, Om. IMHO the central problem is that widgets are designed to attact casual users but are only spread virally by publishers. If Joe User sees a shiny widget on a blog and he thinks “I want,” he’s out of luck because he doesn’t have a blog, start page or MySpace profile. Break web widgets free from the shackles of the web publishing milieu and with it you throw away the limited real estate, slow page loads and limited audience that is holding back true viral adoption.

  3. W.B. McNamara Thursday, May 10, 2007

    It’s more than just the past few days: for amusement value I slapped together widgetbubble.com a couple of months ago.

    It’s really just a couple of technorati charts tracking widget mentions, but amusing to watch…the increase in widget mentions over the last 360 days is awe-inspring.

  4. I think the money comment is “A Last.fm widget on my blog, or a little twitter widget (as used by Martin) and Slide.com’s slide shows on MySpace are very different from Mpire.com’s commercial widgets. These are precisely the widgets that are built to last, and have worked well as audience-boosting and branding tools.”

    Widgets are entertainment and not commerical except for adsense. The ecosystem and platform vendors like Gigya and springwidgets will need to work the business model a little more.

  5. dave mcclure Thursday, May 10, 2007

    valid point & i agree… however, just as a quick reminder that not all widgets require and/or target visible space on the desktop or the browser.

    “widgets” in general are simply componentized apps that enable modular integration of multiple website & services.

    some require visual real estate, others may not. this might be a technical nit, but i think the point i’m making is that using widgets for distribution doesn’t always require cluttering up limited user range of field (but probably for a lot of stuff, you’re correct).

  6. And you don´t think that you, a blog about everything hip and web-two-y about web startups, mentioning widgets and linking to sites with new widgets, has anything to do with it ? Search your own site.

  7. Jay (living in First Life) Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Widgets are extremely hard to monetize. I stil think Photobucket was extremely overvalued. The power belongs to the owner of the traffic/membership so that’s at least why Photobucket had some value because of all the photos stored. There are very few other categories where people have so much vested in a widget.

  8. Some great points in the article for sure, especially the points about what kinds of widgets are the ones built to last.

    However, I do not think the number of widgetbox subscribers is a particularly good barometer of the success or failure of a particular web site.

    For example:
    Sudoku Park has 850ish widgetbox subscribers, but they don’t even rank in the top 100,000 on alexa.

    Twitter Badge has 250ish widgetbox subsribers, but twitter is one of the hottest sites on the web, ranked 850 on alexa with millions of subscribers.

  9. bingo @ dave

  10. Graeme Thickins Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Business models in the world of widgets will happen, guaranteed. The difference lately is that people are realizing widgets can be ads — i.e., a way to grab some of the $20B online ad spend, even if it’s just a sliver of what Google gets from its own mega-ad-widget business, AdSense. What’s raising the noise level substantially is Google announcing it will do a full launch this summer of its “Gadget Ads”…which have been aptly called “WidgetSense.”

    There was a good discussion about widget companies and platforms on this blog post yesterday: World Wide Web of Widgets on Read/Write Web. Say that fast three times… :-)

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