I am hosting a my third annual Widget Summit conference November 3rd and 4th at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. The two-day widget event will once again educate and connect a a widget ecosystem of publishers, toolmakers, developers, and service providers across a variety of platforms including desktop, mobile, web, and social networks. I enjoy taking a look beyond the hype with a sold-out audience interested in building better syndicated content experience through distributed widgets.
The widget industry is constantly evolving as publishers extend their reach beyond their web address and into remote locations already bustling with activity. The popularity of a single site pales in comparison to the aggregate crowds gathered in front of their Windows Vista desktops, iPhones, or My Yahoo! homepages. In the past year we’ve seen new context added to our widget environments connecting us to the location, friend list, or shared application of our widget community wherever they may interact with our content. Today’s smartest widgets enjoy a close bind with their parent platform’s features, regularly poll their home base for relevant updates, and reach new audiences through targeted and integrated content interactions.
At my first widget conference in 2006 we struggled with the name “widget” and this new distribution network most people interpreted as a Flash badge on MySpace. Last year iPhone web applications and the social canvas of Facebook was all the rage, with new opportunities in the enterprise slowly emerging through the rollout of Windows Vista and personal information dashboards powered by software as a service offerings from established consumer brands such as Google and Netvibes.
A lot has changed in the widget space in the 8 months since the last Widget Summit. Widgets are going mainstream, with the startup valuations and press coverage to match. Somewhere among the fog of hype are useful opportunities to reach targeted audiences on their platform of choice. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes we’ve seen since October 2007.
- New collaborative technologies such as OpenSocial and its open-source reference container Apache Shindig are quickly creating new widget environments at companies that could not afford to create their own implementations from scratch. MySpace, Orkut, Hi5, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! have all committed to a standard set of widget APIs.
- The Facebook platform is in the middle of its first big changes since its 2.0 release in May 2007. Shifting concepts of profile display, authoring, and member interaction will require new upgrades or fresh opportunities for completely new applications.
- The iPhone continues to spark interest in mobile web app development based on single-browser environments. iPhone 2.0 will put smartphones in the hands of a worldwide audience for about the price of a ubiquitous iPod and hopefully expand mobile data opportunities.
- Advertising networks have created separate product offerings specifically focused on widgets. DoubleClick syndicates and tracks widgets through its DART platform. AOL’s Platform-A recently announced widget-specific advertising and sponsorship powered by TACODA’s trail of cookie bounties.
- The enterprise continues to adopt software as a service and widgets are no exception. Google, IBM, and Microsoft are extending their hosted software into large companies and bundling the latest widget technologies inside an integrated package.
- Consumer electronics ship with widgets built-in. Your next car, GPS unit, television, or alarm clock may contain customized widget content.
These are just a few of the large trends creating new opportunities for publishers extending the reach of their content through widgets. We’ll cover all the major widget platforms and opportunities at this year’s Widget Summit, providing the business sense and development basics to kick off your new widget initiatives in 2009.
You may have noticed this blog grow quiet over the past few months as I rebuilt the conference software behind Widget Summit and aligned the many business details needed to create the best possible experience. In the next week I’ll share some of the technical details behind my new sites and services.
Registration for Widget Summit is now open with early bird pricing of $795 for the two-day conference in downtown San Francisco on November 3rd and 4th (the Monday and Tuesday before Web 2.0 Summit). I hope you can join us for what should be our best conference yet!