Written by Alex Iskold and edited by Richard MacManus.
We have written extensively about widgets here at Read/WriteWeb because widgets offer a new, byte-size way to expose and consume online content. Widgets are really a win-win for all. Content providers and developers can instantly send their content to many sites, while bloggers and portals can benefit from syndicated, richer content on their pages. And as widgets are becoming more and more ubiquitous, end users become more comfortable with widgets and the provided content.
There is clearly money to be made in the widget space, which is why it has been getting a lot of attention. Richard wrote an overview of the space back in June and I profiled Widgetbox, a market place for widget developers and widget consumers, during DEMOfall. Today we write about a newcomer, a company called ClearSpring, and their innovation in the widget space.
Clearspring, currently in preview, is working on widget technologies for widget developers. The company asked not to share any visuals of their offering until they launch in January, but was open about their plans. They have explained their strategy in terms of three major components:
- Write once embed everywhere
- Widget service container
- Widget usage analytics
Write once embed everywhere
The first offering aims to reduce the amount of custom coding that developers need to do to make their widgets available in various mediums. If you write a widget using the ClearSpring framework, they will take care of generating the right code to embed this widget into Netvibes, MySpace, popular blogs and in the near future PageFlakes, Google Desktop and other widget-enabled platforms. This is compelling, because each platform has its own way of doing things - like passing parameters to the widgets. The ability to write once and embed everywhere will save developers not only a lot of coding time, but also a lot of debugging and maintenance time.
Widget service container
This next offering is to my mind the most innovative one. The idea is that Clearspring wraps any given widget into a container with additional functions, like Share this widget via MySpace or Add this widget to my Blogger or TypePad blog. The container offers a set of services and each developer can decide which services make sense. The ones we see now are just the beginning - Clearspring is planning to provide a wide range of such services. This is a very interesting twist in the whole widget play, as it finds a way to deliver incremental value without forcing people to use proprietary APIs. The company also said that this strategy will drive the viral adoption of widgets, because it makes sharing and grabbing them very easy for the end users.
Widget usage analytics
Because the company wraps widgets into a container, they are also able to track the usage of widgets. This is an interesting and very useful service as it will allow developers to track which sites are most effective. The analytics data will be viewable on ClearSpring.com and will be similar to the traffic charts offered by most web hosting companies, only it will show the actual user clicks on the widget.
CleaSpring brings an interesting angle to the widget market. The idea of having a generic widget container with services is very powerful, as it decouples the widget essence from (often painful) integration work. The key to their success will be the execution, the packaging and of course the monetization strategy. The company is still exploring various possibilities in this area - and is looking for feedback from partners who are engaged in their preview program. It will be interesting to see what actually gets delivered in January.