Yahoo is buying Konfabulator, the neat program that lets you place all kinds of constantly updated widgets on your computer and lets all kinds of creative and generous people write those widgets. Apple — the great copycat — snarfed up the idea for its OSX dashboard. In the old days, we would have said that Yahoo is fighting Microsoft and Apple to take over the operating system or the desktop.
Now, I think it’s part of feedthink. The difference is that widgets are dynamic; they get current information; they gets feeds.
In my feedthink post, I wrote about Twest, a Munich company that was creating similar widgets before their time, about eight years ago, and they had two additional insights:
Widgets should be available anywhere, anytime, on any device. I should be able to see my widgets on my phone — and, in fact, that’s supposed to be a benefit of the new version of Windows, Vista (nee Longhorn). Auxiliary displays will let you see your email or other current information on a small screen when your laptop is closed or on your phone screen. See how Make is creating these displays now using Konfabulator.
Widgets should also be collaborative. I should be able to share a current widget with you. Say I have a shopping list widget. My family should be able to update it from any device and we should all be able to see it on any device. Content is functionality, functionality is content, content is communication.
It’s all part of feedthink.
: Yahoo taking this over means that it could do both those things to widgets. We’ll see.
: Also, if you have an online service of any sort, you’d better start widgethink. I don’t mean taking your content and putting it into a widget (there are plenty of stupid widgets already). I don’t mean turning out ad widgets (unless you’re Bud Lite and you make me laugh). I mean think feeds, think portability, think collaboration, don’t think platform.
Southwest Airlines created its own desktop ap to give you bargain airfares. I wouldn’t go to the effort of downloading that and putting it on my desktop. But I might widget it. Weatherbug was, in a sense, the original widget and now weather is on widgets everywhere (note that because anyone can write widgets from many feeds, it’s hard to hold onto terroritory and branding in widgetville).
News headline widgets are obvious. But what else can you do with them? Can you action-enable the headlines: let me email or save or Del.icio.us or blog the headlines from the widget, perhaps.
If I were Weight Watchers, I’d create a personalized diet widget you could call on from the laptop or the phone.
If I were P&G, I’d create that shopping-list widget.
If I were Nike, I’d sponsor the fitness widgets that already exist.