Widgets (aka gadgets, modules) are mini web apps that you can plug in to a webpage or site such as MySpace, or a personalized start page like Netvibes or live.com. Widgets are becoming more and more important on the Web, so I thought I'd spend a few posts looking more closely at them.
Let's start with Google widgets, which they used to call modules but are now calling gadgets (curiously, a case where Google has copied Microsoft). Google offers two types of gadgets:
1) Desktop plug-ins - for the Google Desktop. Much like Yahoo's Konfabulator widget platform and Apple Dashboard.
Google gadgets can also run in Google Pages, their webpage-editing tool.
To develop gadgets for the Google platform, use the Google Gadgets API - which Google claims is "so easy to use that you can develop your first gadget in 5 minutes". They also say it's easy to turn existing web content into a gadget.
The main difference between Google's and Microsoft's gadgets is that Google takes a web-centric approach, whereas Microsoft gadgets will utilize both desktop and web. I'll look more closely at Microsoft's gadgets in my next widgets post.