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W3C Announces Widget Standard Proposal

Micro Persuasion’s Steve Rubel announces the “W3C Proposes Widget 1.0 Standard” coming from the The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the governing body that determines Internet standards.

The proposal covers “small client-side applications for displaying and updating remote data, packaged in a way to allow a single download and installation on a client machine.” The standard covers widgets that run on the desktop as well as in the browser.

The W3C says widgets include “clocks, stock tickers, news casters, games and weather forecasters. It also notes that widgets go by many names, including “gadgets” or “modules”.

The Widgets 1.0 – W3C Working Draft of November 9, 2006, is under consideration and the W3C is requesting proposals and input on this.

The aspect most interesting to many is the issue of Widget Autodiscovery, allowing Widgets to be automatically “found” by Internet browsers, much like RSS feeds are.

Widget autodiscovery enables a user agent to identify and install a widget that is associated with a web page. When a web page points to a related widget user agents should expose the presence of the widget to the user and allows the user to install the widget.

Widget autodiscovery uses the HTML link element, as defined in section 12.3. of [HTML4], with certain required attributes and values as defined below. As with other link elements, an autodiscovery element may appear in the head element of an HTML or XHTML document, but it must not appear inside the body element.

…A document may contain multiple autodiscovery elements. A User Agent should present an installation option for all autodiscovered widgets to the user, listed in the order of appearance in the source code.

Opening the gate to autodiscovery could be a big can of worms for security issues, though currently, autodiscovery feeds aren’t an issue. Widgets, however, initiate program code.

As with all new technology, the current Widget makers have their own formats and styles. Google has a ton of Widgets for their Google customized homepage and feed reader, as does WordPress, Typepad, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others.

Google Gadget - Moon PhaseAn aspect of Widgets often overlooked is how Widget content often resides elsewhere. So the page using the Widget hotlinks and uses the bandwidth of the other site to generate “content”. For example, I use the Current Moon Phase Google Gadget on my custom Google homepage. The content information and images which generate the Widget are pulled through Google from Calculatorcat.com, so they are hosting the bandwidth I use to use their Widget, which is called “hotlinking”. It’s good publicity for them, sure, and they are providing a service to others, but how are they handling 3 million users doing the same thing every time they reload their Google homepage? This cross-sharing of bandwidth for such Widgets will definitely create an impact.

Still, Widgets are going to be the “hottest gadget” of 2006 and/or 2007. Widgets are all over the place this year and will be definitely hot next year as they improve in quality and quantity. I’m using some in the sidebar of this blog. The ability to easily add Widgets to web pages and blogs will revolutionize web page designs, development, structure, and give folks a lot more bling bling to clutter up their blogs. On the serious side, I think it will really help increase the easy usability of blogs and websites for the average, non-technical user, developing drag and drop design elements.

If you want to be part of the proposal process, read the draft and get involved.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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