February 12th, 2007

Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?

by

There are many interesting similarities between widgets and RSS:

  1. Fantastically flexible distributed technology
  2. A boon for information junkies and power users
  3. Difficult to explain to a non-geek
  4. Name is complete opaque to average, mainstream users
  5. Difficult for average, mainstream users to understand why it’s so cool
  6. Huge technical savviness barrier for average, mainstream user adoption

Erick Schonfeld has an interview with Netvibes CEO Tariq Krim about the future of widgets, which is mostly laudatory, as most posts about widgets are, although Erick does take an interesting look at some of the current limitations with widgets (and at what will happen to online advertising).

But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online publishers than for average folks. Widgets, like RSS, are great for syndicating information, or in the case of widgets, also application functions. But for average users, they are only useful for aggregating on a start page, and really, how often do most people change their start pages?

The inability of anyone to explain widgets or RSS in terms that the average person can understand is really striking. Here’s Erick’s definition of a widget:

Let’s begin by understanding what widgets are. The reason we are seeing widgets all over the place is because the Web has become programmable. It is now possible to separate the underlying data of the Web from the presentation of that data, which means that one Website’s data can be presented anywhere

It’s a great definition, but most people I know outside of my blogging life would have no idea what this means.

Interestingly, Jeremy Zawodny had a post today on why he hates widgets, including concerns over security and site performance (e.g. crashed TechCrunch).

One exception to the mainstream limitation with widgets might be the younger, more tech savvy generation that is used to programming their MySpace pages. But for the average person over 30, there’s a good chance that widgets, like RSS, will remain a black box, not worth opening.

Now, none of this means that widgets, like RSS, won’t revolutionize the world of web publishing (although I’m skeptical of Tariq Krim prediction that widgets will kill web pages) — it’s just that it will be transparent to the average web user.

Comments (29 Responses so far)

  1. Publishing 2.0 | Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?Publishing 2.0

  2. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like R…

  3. [Publishing 2.0 - Scott Karp on the Convergence of Media and Technology] There are many interesting similarities between widgets and RSS: Fantastically flexible distributed technology A boon for information junkies and power users Difficult to explain to a non-geek Name is complete opaque to average, mainstream users

  4. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? 1 day 14 hours old The Real Problem For YouTube 3 days 14 hours old Deconstructing We Media 3 days 15 hours old

  5. on and on. All intended, of course, to help us make sense (and function within) the deluge of information washing over our computer (and increasingly, mobile) screens on a daily basis. Of course there are concerns with widgets…and Scott Karp asks Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?

  6. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?

  7. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? Publishing 2.0

  8. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? » Publishing 2.0

  9. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? » Publishing 2.0

  10. It has more than 60 million users. But Krim thinks Netvibes’s ease of use will make it disruptive. “The simpler it is, the more people will use it,” he says. “If it’s easy and fun, you’ll use it again.” Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 asks Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? with some great open questions about stalling adoption like RSS has felt in his post: But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online publishers than for average folks. Widgets, like RSS, are great for syndicating

  11. Aanbevolen leesvoer Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?Google eyes in-game ads acquisitionEbay To Suspend All Virtual Item Auctions”This Video Is Brought To You By…”The Bite-Size Web(Gratis) Boek over UGC of CCCA Second to Talk About Second LifeBMW New World verkent Second Life

  12. , ClickZ Stats The SEM Landing Page Dilemma, Search Marketing Gurus Neuromarketing & Branding in the Search Results, SEOmoz How To Generate Targeted Site Traffic Without Search Engines, Scoreboard Media Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?, Publishing 2.0

  13. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? That’s a interesting question. It’s very possible.

  14. didn’t they say that RSS would be the death of web pages as well at some point?

    :)

  15. RSS is so pragmatically more useful than most any widget. Most wigets are blogger conceits that will disappear as bloggers get serious or disappear themselves.

  16. RSS = ways to surf web automatic.

  17. I’ve tried the following explanation of RSS for several business leaders, and it seems to work;

    ‘RSS turns a web site into a well trained employee. Instead of going to an employee every five minutes to see if they’ve finished the report, you tell the employee to come to you when the report is finished. Subscribe to an RSS feed for a web site, and the content will come to you when it is ready, which means that you don’t have to keep checking up on it.’

    I don’t think it is a question of widgets gaining mainstream adoption – it’s a matter of how people will refer to them, and in what format they will be delivered. Even if my generation (18-24 yr olds) are able to customise a MySpace profile, most of them still have no understanding of the underlying technology, but that doesn’t matter. They want to add custom elements to their on-line space, and where there is demand there will be solutions. Six or seven years ago most web users would have struggled with customising MySpace. And now look at the average MySpace profile, it’s completely transformed by visual and aural elements. Humans are just getting better with the computer.

  18. The problem with widgets is that they slow the load of a web page to a crawl. Not always, not every load, but frequently enough to be a major disincentive.

  19. Widget load times are a problem. But let’s not forget that the average Internet user (if still discussing mainstream adoption of widgets) will have a higher tolerance for page load times than Internet power users, such as the people who visit this tech blog.

    Would you rather have instantaneous page loads, or widget functionality that helps to make a visit to a URL so much richer? (Has a never-ending plague of 404 really affected MySpace?)

  20. Scott, thanks for picking up the discussion. You are right, definitions everyone can understand are important. I didn’t spend a lot of time defining widgets in my post because the first mention of the term links back to a lengthy earlier post where I do define it for the average reader. That said, I did describe it this way in the more recent post:

    A widget is a tiny application or piece of a Website that constantly streams new information to you.

    Maybe a better short definition would have been::

    Widgets are tiny applications that automatically push all sorts of data from the Web (like weather, headlines, Flickr photos) to your desktop or personal Webpage, and allow you to interact with those other Websites without actually visiting them.

  21. [...] mobile) screens on a daily basis. Of course there are concerns with widgets…and Scott Karp asks Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? Posted by gsiemens at February 13, 2007 08:54 AM | [...]

  22. [...] Karp ponders the future of widgets: Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS? � Publishing 2.0. Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like [...]

  23. Not just load times, either – that stupid javascript blog roller on the Blogger login page slams my dual-core Athlon in Firefox. I had to find an alternate page (https://www2.blogger.com/login.g)

  24. I don’t think it would be fair to compare the two. RSS Revolutionized reading. Widgets work more as an addition to your already existing system.

    However, widgets do have a long way to go, because of the ease of adding things to your site/blog without hard coding.

  25. [...] Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Just Like RSS?, Publishing 2.0 [...]

  26. Insightful as always Scott :)
    Manual trackback from a man who has a love/hate relationship with Widgets/Gadgets/Whatever you call them!

    http://www.touchstonelive.com/blog/2007/02/will-widgets-and-rss-hit-mainstream.html

  27. [...] the mainstream? Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 asks yet another interesting question on his blog.”Will Widgets hit a Mainstream Wall just like RSS?”From his post:”But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online [...]

  28. [...] Scott Karp is skeptical that widgets will ever see broad mainstream adoption, arguing that they’re very similar to RSS: But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online publishers than for average folks. Widgets, like RSS, are great for syndicating information, or in the case of widgets, also application functions. But for average users, they are only useful for aggregating on a start page, and really, how often do most people change their start pages? [...]

  29. [...] have caught my eye regarding the use of widgets. Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 wonders "Will Widgets Hit A Mainstream Wall Like RSS"? First, I don’t think that a lack of instant adoption by 95% of the population equates to [...]

  30. [...] Publishing 2.0.) Tag this post These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover [...]

Add Your Comment

Subscribe

Receive new posts by email