Fresh off a $12 million capital infusion, Six Apart has joined the widget revolution, opening up its blog platform for developers to create companion applications for TypePad. So far, 33 TypePad widgets are available, ranging from commerce and games to content and search--and they are free. For example, Bunchball's widget let bloggers to interact with visitors via games and content sharing. Our own CNET Webshots lets bloggers share their photo albums via a widget. Search engines Eurekster, Jobster, Kosmix, Rollyo, SimplyHired, Sphere and Technorati have created TypePad widgets. One True Media allows bloggers to create and embed videos into blog entries, and Zazzle lets TypePad bloggers to earn money sales their designs.
Yahoo, Google, Apple, Microsoft and others software makers also have widgets, but there isn't much in the way of compatibility. I asked Six Apart's Anil Dash about the possiblity of some standards that would make it easier to build and deploy widgets across applications. Here's his email response:
We'd thought a bit about widget compatibility, and unfortunately it wasn't something we could pull off. In short, *none* of those players have documented their specs well enough to clone, and they all have fairly unique constraints that make them difficult to reverse engineer. Yahoo's widgets are desktop--only due to their Konfabulator heritage, as are Apple's, so they have a totally different trust model based on those essentially running as trusted desktop applications. Google and Microsoft's widgets share our widgets' design in being hosted on the web, but they've dealt with things like cross-site scripting prevention and embedding instructions in totally different ways, again based on the fact that MS wants their gadgets to run in Vista's sidebar as *well* as on Live.com.
I am pretty hopeful that a widget/gadget standard emerges, but I'm really not holding my breath because the initial design constraints are so different for the various systems. Microsoft's Live.com team, to their credit, does seem interested in at least documenting their APIs to the point where we could support their widgets by cloning them, but those sorts of things will (I'm assuming) get lower priority as Vista goes into crunch time. Maybe next year? :)
In the interim, someone will make a killing making a universal widget generator. We've settled for making our widget API as absolutely lightweight as possible and really targeting it to all the services that have already done things for sidebars. Anyone who says "copy the markup in the box below and paste it into your blog template" should be able to use our widget API, and hopefully in the future we can add compatibility layers for the other services as they're documented.