Konfeedulator: Feedthink meets widgethink

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.

What else?

  • OT: Hey Jeff, is this the first time you’re on Stern?

    You seem like old buddies with Howard. “17 million this, 17 million that.”

    “I’m not into this whole blog thing,” says Robin.

    Good call, but I don’t think you’ve convince them about the blog business model.

  • Widgets are great little java aps and though they didn’t invent them, I think Apple is terrific for making them so conveniently available by including them in their latest OS.

    I’d like to see an astronomy widget that would tell me from my current location where I can find major constellations and planets and what exciting conjunctions etc. are coming up in the sky for me to see.

    Or how about a sophisticated insult widget which like a thesaurus would give you instant access to wonderfully obscure insults you could hurl at that urbane, obtuse, pseudo-intellectual, long-winded blogger who’s been aggravating you so much lately, and whom you’d like to call a variety of names none of which would be appropriate in a public forum.

    Here’s an example:

    “Jim continues to advance the older, well tested, but more conservative views of the Procrustean school, but concentrates on the Antediluvian approach rather than the more progressive disintegrative antipotentials viewpoint as advanced by Brobdingnag et al. Perhaps he is not familiar with Sheiskopf and his work on this subject? It is a testimonial to the broadmindedness of the authorities in his part of the world that he is able to voice these views without apparent inhibition. I wonder if he has adequately studied the valuable influence of intelligence on this issue.”

  • Couple of small clarifications…
    1) A lot of people get confused on this. Apple didn’t rip-off Knfab. Apple has had widgets in one form or another for a long time (think Desk Accessories in the previous OS). Apple uses standard dhtml, javascript, css to make widgets (they are mini-webpages. Konfab uses it’s own proprietary system. I could build/modify an Apple widget, I could not build a Konfab widget.
    2) Apple widgets are not Java apps. Java is completely different than Javascript.

  • im just getting into blogging and dont quite understand how it works and all the definitions,, but im trying
    a thought — with all the freedoms we have goes an awlful lot of responsibility and good sense

  • “Java is completely different than Javascript.”

    It’s also worth pointing out that one of the K co-founders was apparently working at Sun at the time. Sun invented Java, but apparently that was considered too difficult or too slow, too heavyweight, or not xplatform enough.

    Widgets and other components have been around for a long time from Apple, MS, and others.

  • Tim

    This Yahoo! deal is sweet revenge for the Konfabulator guys.

    Apple may have had Desktop Accessories waaay back in early versions of their old OS, but they are nothing like the current widgets of Konfabulator. Apple fans who will defend ANYTHING the company does have tried to argue otherwise, but even if you put that debate aside, the Desktop Accessories disappeared long ago.

    In Konfabulator, Arlo Rose and company had a great idea, married it with good coding and put it together in a gorgeous visual package, something which happens rarely. (Most developers only get it partly right.)

    And Apple came along as swiped the entire thing.

    Now Yahoo! is going to popularize an excellent program (for free!) and extend what was temporarily a competitive advantage for the new Tiger OS to everyone. It’s a brilliant move.

    I love Apple, which is why I’m happy this sad tale had such a happy ending. That’ll teach ’em.

  • Pardon me, Javascript apps.

    Would Yahoo! have been as interested in Konfab had Apple not shown the amazing across the board potential for widgets in its latest OS? Also, if what PXLated says above is true, the ease with which you can program for Apple widgets is a plus in their favor. It means that anyone with a great idea for a widget can bring it forward, upload it to Apple’s site and share it without having to bother with proprietary Konwhatevertheirnameis.

  • I’m not familiar with K! or with Tiger, but it’s marginally worth pointing out that OpenDoc and Taligent were trying to create something which I take to be similar many years ago, albeit larger scale and less desk accessory-oriented. Similar things might have been around since the 60s or 70s at Xerox PARC, but I’m not sure about that.

    And, after all that work of making links, I have a feeling they’re going to have nofollow tags. So, any search engines hitting this page might not fully understand that this comment is about OpenDoc and Taligent. And, it will help any scraper sites that want to rank above WP for those terms.

  • Greg Allen

    The problem with widget programs like Konfabulator is that you have to go out and download their runtime before you can use one of its widgets.

    Konfabulator is a late comer to the whole widget business anyway. DesktopX (www.desktopx.net) was doing everything Konfabualtor could do and more years before Konfabulator showed up.

    Last week they released DesktopX 3.1 which, amongst other things, includes a Professional version that lets people export their widgets as gadgets. Gadgets are truly stand alone. Your examples would be much better as gadgets since it wouldn’t require companies to bundle some 10 megabyte run time. DesktopX gadgets tend to be around 500k total. No other files needed.


  • no answer ———- what is a widget

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  • Thanks for the info about Konfeedulator: Feedthink meets widgethink!

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