Posted on | September 19, 2011 | No Comments
What’s a widget? It’s a snippet of code that can be placed on any web page which, when executed (e.g., clicked-on, rolled-over, etc.), performs a function. That function may be simple, local like change color. Or, it may be complex, engaging services (APIs or Application Programming Interfaces) from around the network. As services for these widgets are rendered over the IP protocol, they’re available on all manner of operating systems across PC’s, servers, mobile phones and more.
From a marketer’s perspective, a widget is more than a piece of code. It’s an opportunity to get your brand, your message, your ad in front of consumers in a high-impact, high-utility way. That’s why widgets are now proliferating on Google, Facebook (20K+), Apple’s iPhone (200K+)… Even B2B marketers are getting into the fray with LinkedIn, SalesForce and BeeHive adding widgets or apps like they’re going out of style. Per Bob Garfield of AdAge:
…the widget is something like the magical connection between marketers and consumers, not only replacing the one-way messaging long dominated by media advertising but vastly outperforming it. Because online the link is literal and direct, and along its path, data of behavior, preference and intention are left at every step.
So, why do they exist? They started with open source programmers who wanted to re-use code written by others. Whereas before programmers had to build much of their web applications from scratch, libraries of re-usable functions mean today’s applications stitch together APIs to complete a business function. Why have web widgets become so prevalent? Three drivers:
- In 1998 Uproar.com found that it could acquire website traffic by placing its Trivia Blitz game on other websites including CNN. After interacting with the game remotely, people went to Uproar for more.
- Around 2002 Google and Yahoo learned that they could garner share by pushing search services off their sites. Suddenly search boxes appeared everywhere channeling algorithmic and paid search results.
- Around 2004, Social networks like MySpace helped consumers build their own web-presence providing basic plumbing e.g., your text description, your photos. Soon enterprising developers built transportable profile features which spread quickly.
So what? Whether they’re high-utility personal widgets or high-visibility social widgets, they enable ever-expanding services. Looking at ProgrammableWeb’s inventory of over 1,000 web widgets, we find the most popular:
1. The Map – Get direction. Google Maps is the King. Integrated into countless sites and over 1,500 mashups, their installs are 10x its competitors such as Yahoo Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth.
2. The Digital Image Player – See and be seen. The YouTube Video, Flickr photoshare and the Slideshow, well, slideshow are examples of digital image player devices that play content downloaded or streamed.
3. The Search Utility – Find it, fast. As outlined above these widgets are pervasive. Whether it’s speed (Google), customization (Yahoo) or content (Technorati), each service has its own flair.
4. The Rating – Ding / rave about everything. These tools leverage the oft-cited “wisdom of crowds” putting your rating with those of others to bump up or down content, products, whatever. Best example: the ubiquitous Digg rating.
5. The ID – Die annonomity! Whether it’s the full profile offered by LinkedIn’s button or just the credentials promised by Facebook’s Connect, these widgets identify you to people and services around the network.
Ok, enough with the primer, what are my Top Ten Widgets or APIs?
1. On Demand Computing Power – Amazon’s S3 – Online Storage and EC2 – Elastic Compute Cloud virtual hosting APIs put storage and computing power in the hands of developers at a fraction of the cost just three years ago. As it’s an API, you can read about it on their developer forum.
2. The Alert / Reminder – Baby Countdown by Huggies (below) won IAB’s MIXX 2.8 Silver Medal for “Widget Marketing”. Another example is the Southwest “Ding”. It tells you when fares between you city pairs have gone down. According to Paul Sacco, Sr. Mgr Online Strategy at Southwest, the “Ding” generated 10 million clicks in Q308.
3. The Catalog – Not surprisingly digital retailers are way out front in terms of making their wares available online. Amazon Ecommerce and Ebay Auction Marketplace widgets actively push catalog and search features to remote sites.
4. The Social / Self Improvement Widget – One of Bob Garland’s top picks, the Nike+ “Miles” widget built by TribalDDB tracks the miles you’ve run. What’s more, it combines web, desktop and offline components to not only log the miles, but post them to the Nike+ social network. Requires client-side installation.
5. For Bloggers – There are a zillion blog widgets each offering a targeted blog feature and most also including imbedded advertisements. Basic examples include the Delicious Bookmark prompt and the Twitter blog integration. APIs for the latter can be used to pull your latest Tweets into your blog or to build whole new applications a la TweetDeck. In fact, this micro-blogging service is all about pushing its “Twinfluence” around through liberal APIs.
6. The B2B Widget – While pretty limited in its functionality (it’s basically brochure-ware), IBM’s Build Your Case widget is meant to guide IT managers through a methodology for building a business case for their IT projects – presumably including IBM hardware and software components.
7. The Naked Ad Online / Offline Tie-In Thingy – Panic at the Disco by Honda Civic and RPA is IAB’s MIXX 2.8 Gold Medal winner for “Widget Marketing”. Why? It connected the online widget to offline components including local-area concerts.
8. The Digital Storefront – True Anthem Music Widget promotes independent and undiscovered talent online. Download the songs / albums for free. Or, cut /past the code importing a player widget w/ your choice of music.
9. The Time Saving Utility – With the UPS widget created by McCann London, an animated character and downloadable desktop application, lets customers track packages from their desktop. Requires client-side installation.
10. The Translator- Google’s Site Translator lets your visitors read your site in any of six languages. Try it out below!
Want more more? In fact, want them all? Just visit ProgrammableWeb.com to see their list of over 1,000 widgets including those “in the wild” (mashups). Want a widget for your website? Most widgets have a link that allows you to copy the code and embed it into your site. Want to browse widgets? Visit Google Gadgets, WidgetBox.com, Yahoo Widgets or YourMinis. Want your own widget? talk to your app developer or work with those provided by widget advertising and distribution networks (yep, already) such as GigYa and BuddyMedia.
Oh yea! One more. The Blinx Video Wall