One of the primary reasons that I made the trek to New York for WidgetWebExpo was to catch Fred Wilson's keynote.
Fred kept it pretty simple - his main emphasis was that widgets, as they have existed from 2005-2007, are on the way out. That users - especially those younger than 28 - like to consume content in a river format (twitter, friendfeed, fb news feed, tumblr, etc.). That the clutter, performance hit, and content separation caused by loading widgets into a sidebar does not make for an optimal consumption experience.
Here are my verbatim notes from the keynote (written as Fred was speaking.) Please excuse typos.
Why Widget is the wrong word and why it matters
In the computer world widgets are the objects you interact with on a computer screen.
A web widget is a portable chunk of code than can be exported and executed.
I think the way we use the word widgets is wrong.
Flickr badge is the first widget I ever used (2005).
Eye opening. Had a Flickr page, and had a blog. Could not introduce each to each other’s audiences. By adding a badge, developed interaction between the two communities. Folks would click through. This got me thinking up about mashing up web pages.
MyBlogLog the most interesting widget I ever used. I realized then that widgets were more than just showing content…. but introducing new functionality. My blog had become a (lightweight) social network.
Tried to invest, had a signed agreement, but before we could execute, they sold to Yahoo. I don’t think they realized the potential of what MyBlogLog could become.
Favorite widget: music widget hacked by Darren (reader of blog and tumblog), song of the day widget.
Autoplay checkbox…. Will play the whole chronology. You can also skip through songs.
Now, I can stop posting mp3’s to blog – just post to tumblog. Very helpful.
What is content and what is an ad? Shows google ads in margin. We are getting trained by G and others about what is content and what is an ad.
Right side is ads, left side is content.
This notion of separation between content and ads is common. On my blog, content is in the middle, and left and right margins are widgets and ads.
Three times I’ve gone through process of cleaning out my widgets.
Widgets slow down pages. It takes 25 seconds for avc.blogs.com to load. Fast loading is a requirement for a successful web service.
Tumblog – no sidebars. Content is delivered inline. In Tumblog, maybe they wouldn’t be called widgets. Last.FM music stream post as an example of an inline widget.
I am enamored with the concept of flow / river. People want to consume in a flow that is controlled by them. A river of news, a river of photography, is a more compelling experience than the separation of content and widgets on avc.blogs.com
The challenge for widget builders is to figure out how to get the content into the flow, as opposed to onto the page.
Questions: no os for widgets – to terminate processes that aren’t loading.
Fred: a company was working on this but I don't remember who.
Fred: Pending FB redesign: apps coming off the profile page by default is directionally similar to the river mentality. Apps shouldn't automatically show up on profile.
First generation of widget economy was powerful because it showed you could mash up multiple services on the same page. But the UI to do this is not ideal. Lots of work to do to make it work better. Widgets shouldn’t suck.
Reality of RSS – we will never get higher than 10-15% of folks consuming blog content via RSS readers. Same is true for FriendFeed.
Power of feeds is to move content around to the people who want it when they want it.
When you look at the leading edge of innovation, you need to look where the money is. For example, IT innovations happen on wall street because they can afford to try different stuff.
On the web, it’s in advertising. The most interesting behavioral algos are in the advertising sector – quigo, google, tacoda, etc.
All of these technologies will be merged – an ad unit will targeted at you based on your personal trail. It will happen first in advertising, but then it will get to personal publishing. Contextual inline widgets, with a personalized river for everybody.
I don’t use an RSS reader. Too much on the web. If it’s newsworthy, it will find me via the tools I use.
Question: how do you see Google Friend Connect socializing widgets.
It won't be as simple as dropping a MyBlogLog like widget into the page. Relationships have context - my Etsy friends are in the context of Etsy.
Debate: are social networks portable across services. Google Friend Connect will give me more control over my social graph. But, you still must put the work into each social network to create the right contextually relevant social graph.
Widgets not necessarily monetizable, but the web services behind them are.
Engagement of widgets is what matters. Who’s clicking and doing what.
If you take out the wall apps, the most successful apps are games. Zynga – 2M people per day playing. 12% of monthly reach of FB. Everything should have a game dynamic.
We need to design widgets in a way that drives more engagement.