launch of Microsoft's blogging and social networking platform, Windows Live Spaces (formally MSN Spaces), there has been an increase in interest around gadgets - i.e. mini web apps. People can add gadgets into their Spaces site and Microsoft is starting to promote this feature heavily. Jay Fluegel of Microsoft has written a post to encourage developers to create gadgets for the Live Spaces platform. He wrote:With the
"...a big part of joining the Windows Live family today is support for web gadgets written by anyone including YOU! Thanks to the great work done on Gadgets to date, you can now write a gadget that works both in Live.com (personalized portal) and Spaces (online expression/identity). And, it only takes one person adding it to their space for your gadget to become popular -- visitors to that space can choose "Add to your space" or "Add to Live.com" right from the header of the gadget, then visitors to that space can add to their spaces, and it's off to the races!"
Gadgets are a way for external developers to get their apps onto the large Windows Live "family" of services - which drives usage and increases mindshare. This is what I call a real ecosystem at work, because Windows Live Spaces (and live.com, the personalized start page) is a platform that external developers can leverage to their advantage. It basically gives small developers access to a mass market, so it makes sense to put your app on there and potentially gain mass exposure. The same argument applies to doing a gadget/widget for MySpace or Google's platform, although MySpace doesn't really make it easy to leverage their platform.
I also like the guidelines Fluegel gives to potential Spaces Live gadget developers: make gadgets customizable, make them "reflective of the author's personality" [i.e. the Spaces user], and make sure it fits lots of different designs and themes. That old Web maxim: develop for the user first.
Developing MS gadgets - is it still too hard?
Details on developing gadgets for Live can be found at the Windows Live Dev site. Note that I've had some feedback from developers that Live gadgets are a lot harder to code than Google's gadgets. When I wrote about Google's gadget platform, Coogy developer Robert Yeager left this comment:
"In developing gadgets for Cooqy, our eBay search engine, we were able to have a Google gadget ready in about 5 minutes, but the Microsoft Live.com version took 5 hours! Oh, and the Microsoft version of our gadget doesn't work on Firefox!"
Microsoft's Mike Torres (from the Live Spaces team) replied in my comments:
"We're working pretty hard to have a consistent Live.com, Spaces, Windows Vista development story for mini applications. And of course, reducing the barrier to adoption by making it easier."
For more info on Live Spaces gadgets, the LiveSide blog has a podcast which explores the gadgets more with Jay Fluegel.
Finally, if you're a Live Spaces user, here are instructions to start adding gadgets to your page.