One of the primary tenets of Web 2.0 is allowing people who don’t possess special skills to update content regularly and distribute it easily. Blogs, wikis, and podcasts are examples of technologies that support this tenet, and YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook are examples of implementations.
Emails, phone calls, newspapers, newsletters, and websites are all great ways government entities have been distributing content to citizens. Widgets (a.k.a. widgets, gadgets, badges, modules, and many other monikers) are another possibility. Widgets are movable, mini-applications that can be installed on most web pages, making them a perfect example of a Web 2.0 technology.
Google, AOL, and Yahoo! all allow users to add widgets to their personalized home pages. Common uses are weather forecasts, stock price updates, and news feed widgets.
Amazon also provides widgets that allow users to add product catalogs and other interactive devices to websites.
Widgets are extremely popular with web users, especially 18-25 year olds who are adding them to their MySpace and Facebook pages in large numbers. Widgets are also big business. Some of the most popular of the 14,000 widgets available to Facebook users are produced by Slide, a San Francisco-based company. Slide’s widgets include SuperPoke and FunWall. Fidelity and T. Rowe Price recently invested $50M in Slide.
Users can find and add widgets through personalized portal applications, like Google, Yahoo!, AOL, and Facebook; directly from the creator, including Amazon; and from widget galleries, such as Widgetbox and SpringWidgets.
The ROI for creating and distributing widgets is still difficult to quantify, but reaching citizens where they live, work, and play is always valuable to government. GovDelivery is experimenting with widgets that will allow our government clients to distribute their content across the web. We’re excited about the future of this content distribution technique and will continue to monitor its evolution.