June 27, 2006

The Flexibility of Gadgets & Widgets

I think that tech writer Paul Boutin, wrote something important in his piece "A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace" on slate.com.
There are two design requirements for technology meant for the masses. First, you need to automate all the techie parts so people can just press Play. ... Second, Web moguls shouldn't presume to foresee what 100 million people will want to do with their site.
Flexibility is vastly underrated by many tech companies:
If tech builders want to hand the controls over to their users, shouldn't they presume they haven't thought of everything? Apple's iWeb publishing system is easy to use and way more attractive than MySpace, but we'd have gotten old waiting for Apple to invent a Lip Sync Video template.
One of the reasons RSS is exploding all over the web is because it provides flexibility. When I put up an RSS feed I am putting my content out in a form you can grab and use how your program chooses.

The next big step in flexibility is Gadgets/Widgets; little pieces of HTML, CSS, and Javascript that can be mixed and matched and added to a variety of web pages and desktops. Right now there are lots of different formats. Google has one, Yahoo has one. Apple has one. But Microsoft has one that will allow uses to put widgets on a web page or on a Vista desktop. I predict that the Microsoft one will predominate (or will become a defacto universal one) because when they ship Vista, they will get 10's of millions of users almost instantly. It will become "cool" for 3rd parties to build Gadgets that put their functionality out there for millions to drop on their desktop or into their favorite web page.

Some of these Gadgets will be able to parse RSS feeds and show the content the user wanted. The Gadget designer won't even know what the user is showing in the Gadget. For example, say I have a Gadget that shows a map and an RSS feed of addresses. Suddenly I can have a Gadget on my desktop that shows multiple points on a map. What could I use that for? I could track the location of my packages, or the schools in my area, or the parties going on this weekend. The use of a map + location feed Gadget is limited by the imagination of the user, not the Gadget designer. Posted by georgegmacdonald at June 27, 2006 03:48 PM