Brands will be widgetized, but who is the author?

Companies who embrace widgets may be less likely to suffer phishing attacks and bloated bandwidth consumed by third-party creations. Popular content will eventually find its way into widget platforms by scrape or by frame, and it’s best to get ahead of the potential pitfalls and embrace the new medium. Two types of widgets have been on my mind this weekend as a potential issue for companies who fail to ride the widgets wave.

Protecting user information

Windows Live GMail widget Sites with personal user data placed behind a username and password may be subject to new types of phishing attacks from the widget web. A user will likely locate your service’s widget through the widget provider’s directory, searching for terms such as “Gmail” and “eBay” to access their latest mail messages or watched auction items. These widgets will prompt the user for their login information before delivering personalized information from each service, leaving the trust of a brand in the hands of a third-party developer who may or may not act in the best interest of the data provider.

If Google Mail and eBay worked directly with the large widget producers to establish certified or trusted widget status they could reduce opportunities available for third party widgets offering enticing functionality to send messages to a remote server with collected user data. The trusted, certified, or verified seals provided by each widget platform is one way to ensure users receive the official product and not a knock-off.

Companies with brand-monitoring services may want to add widgets to the areas being tracked, ensuring the Gmail or eBay brand name (for example) is not being misused or misrepresented.

Web clips

Apple Dashboard where there's a will there's a widget

Apple is promoting Dashboard widgets in Leopard with the tagline “Where there’s a will, there’s a widget.” The next version of the Apple OS includes new tools that will make widget creation easier than ever, turning the Safari web browser into an authoring interface with by selecting a piece of content on any page for consistent updates.

Safari Web Clips Web Clip for Safari creates simple widgets for any user, constantly refreshing a web page and displaying any updates which may occur. The resulting web clip often loads the entire page, even if a user is only interested in a given HTML snippet. A “Fact of the Day” web clip may be 5 KB of content pulled out of a larger 40K page with all the associated menu JavaScripts and full document CSS stylings. What a waste!

Safari might not have a huge share of the browser market, but enough Apple desktops requesting the top search terms on Technorati or popular searches on eBay and you suddenly have large amounts of wasted bandwidth. In the case of Technorati a 100 KB page load is reduced to less than 4 KB and could be even lower with some asynchronous JavaScript requests.

Summary

Large web brands may be in a publish or peril situation with regards to widget publishing. Users will continue to associate themselves with proper brands or services, creating opportunities for third parties or affiliates to represent your brand at their own choosing.

If you start to notice Safari and WebKit requests climbing in popularity perhaps you have content worthy of a Web Clip added to someone’s desktop. Keep an eye out, watch how others are interacting with your content, and adjust accordingly. The good news is your content is finding its way into new places, the bad news is it may not be the most optimal use of your brand or bandwidth.

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Commentary on "Brands will be widgetized, but who is the author?":

  1. rich campoamor on wrote:

    Niall, I think it is also worth considering that if you see Safari and WebKit requests climbing as you describe, you may also consider making that information more readily available via Atom or RSS rather than scraping.

    I agree with you on the password/id issue. Some sites like netvibes have done an excellent job of creating a place to have widgetized access to your various other web services but at the risk that if netvibes gets compromised, there goes your login credentials for mail, etc.