There are many blog commentators out there (including myself) who at the beginning of the year predicated that 2006 would be the year of video (here here here here). And, of course, we are all now patting ourselves on our back for what amazing predictive powers we had. But if we all saw it coming, is it really a story (or much of a prediction)? Hardly. I think that the real (and largely uncovered) story of 2006 is the emergence of online syndication widgets. I didn’t see the importance of a few simple lines of portable HTML code affecting the online space so dramatically, and I suspect most others didn’t either.
First, it should be said the rise of online video was fueled in part by widgets – YouTube built a good portion of their own traffic through the syndication of their player throughout the net (and especially on MySpace). Many photosharing sites (like Photobucket and Filmloop) similarly based their viral expansion on syndication of their hosted content through widgets on MySpace and other social networks. The success of these services spurred Fox Interactive Media into launching TheSpringBox, a “widget” platform for MySpace users that also works on the desktop. Similarly, Google released Google Gadgets in May, and Yahoo released “the long-awaited Universal binary of the Yahoo! Widget Engine version 3.1.4” that month as well. In my own daily consumption of information, blogs like Widgify and Flying Seeds became staple reading.
Of course, numerous startups got into the mix – rising social networking star Bebo launched “Bebo Widgets” last week, Widgetbox/PostApp provides a directory of widgets, and most of the social shopping sites leverage them for user-expression. Widgets are now the building blocks of the emerging set of personalized start pages. The Chumby promises to expand the reach of our widgets from our computer screen and into the rest of our homes.
And the introduction of WidgetsLive conference one day before the now seminal Web2.0 Conference became a notable sign of the times. The list goes on and on, as the power of widgets which syndicate content (whether it’s media, interactive software, or otherwise), as they fly across the internet, is challenging the basic assumptions of the web (“are pageviews obsolete?”).
And it all seemed to happen in 2006 without much premonition.