2007 Trends : The Widget & The Branded Utility


If there's one thing that royally screwed Web 1.0, it was the rush to build mountains and then bring the people to the mountains, rather than the mountains (an d...

Guy Brighton
  • 5 january 2007

If there’s one thing that royally screwed Web 1.0, it was the rush to build mountains and then bring the people to the mountains, rather than the mountains (an d their message) to the people. If you wanted to be online (and you wanted to get some $ from a VC or two), you had to build a site with a cool name. The problem was (a) there weren’t that many people online in the dial-up internet age and (b) they had enough trouble getting past things like ISP closed gardens to get through to you.

Everything was about getting people to come to you rather than you going to them.

Of course, the great Google came and oiled the wheels. It worked out a clever equation that got people to go places. The world seemed to love it, but it wasn’t what they really wanted.

What the world wants is for the internet to come to them, not for them to go to it. They don’t want to visit a bank’s online service in the same way they don’t want to go to a bank’s branch. Sure, people want to know their account balances and even pay the bills in an instant – they would rather watch the funny video their friend has sent them that go and try and remember their password to log on somewhere.

Another thing to consider is that during the age of Google, many people started to express themselves to the world though blogging tools – and as they started to express themselves they needed to find stuff to put on their blogs. What many found was the grand-daddy of widgets: the Flickr Badge. The Flickr Badge is a Flash or HTML piece of code you can put on your own site that shows off photos from Flickr’s archive.

After bloggers started to use the Flickr Badge, they started to find other widgets – search engines, advertising programs, news headlines, streaming music and even daily cartoons. Blog software Typepad has a whole array of widgets bloggers can add to their site. Bloggers put these widgets on their sites and they put them on their desktops.

And then YouTube arrived with the new prince of widgets: the video
embed. With it every blog and MySpace page can become a niche
television station.

What’s happening is that the internet, and the content is contains, is beginning going to go to the people. Listen to what Peter Rojas has to say here about the widget.

Gradual widget adoption combined with RSS technology means that 2007 will see a boom in the use of widgets. It’s taken media and brands quite a while to get round to thinking of using these things – but now every brand, ad agency and media site is going to try to work out how to broadcast content, entertainment, information and even coupons via widgets. Butr that’s not all: the shape of widgets is changing too. Early widgets were boxes that
published streamed data but now widgets can take many forms – roll over
an external hyperlink on PSFK and you can see the Snap preview widget
in action. Fancy, eh?

We’re bound to see a lot of duds being spat out by brands in 2007 but, we hope, we’ll actually see brands providing something useful for people: who knows, the widget might make it the year of Branded Utility?


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