November 10, 2006
@ 07:09 PM

I noticed today that the W3C has a draft spec named Widgets 1.0 that has the following abstract

This document describes widgets. It covers the packaging format, the manifest file config.xml, and scripting interfaces for working with widgets.

The type of widgets that are addressed by this document are usually small client-side applications for displaying and updating remote data, packaged in a way to allow a single download and installation on a client machine. The widget may execute outside of the typical web browser interface. Examples include clocks, stock tickers, news casters, games and weather forecasters. Some existing industry solutions go by the names "widgets", "gadgets" or "modules".

I read the spec and it's unclear to me after reading what problem it is actually trying to solve.  Is this supposed to make the lives of widget developers easier? Doesn't seem like it. Is it targetted at vendors that are building proprietary widget platforms like Yahoo!, Microsoft and Fox Interactive Media (MySpace's parent company)? Not really from what I read. At best, it seems this is trying to change the fact that the primary way of sharing widgets across sites is copying & pasting HTML code you find on places such as MySpace scripts and Video Code Zone by building a more complicated system which hopefully can then be integrated into Web browsers as native functionality to 'eventually' make things easier.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.


Categories: Web Development
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Friday, November 10, 2006 9:51:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It's just standardizing widget packaging. That's good, no?
Friday, November 10, 2006 10:57:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It's also not really trying to change anything. I suppose it's worth looking into describing better what problems it's trying to solve et cetera. It's the first public Working Draft with many parts that have yet to be sorted out (it says so quite clearly in the introduction).
Saturday, November 11, 2006 12:29:04 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm still trying to understand the value-add here. So are you saying what this does is make it so that when you go to a site like that instead of the browser fetching blufrgadget.js + blufrgadget.css + darescode.js it just downloads daresblufrgadget.widget?

If that's the case then it is truly a non-solution to a non-problem.

Right now the spec does a poor job of stating what problem it is trying to solve or how it solves the problem. I'd be interested in reading successive iterations of the spec to see if there is actually something worth nagging folks here at Windows Live about or not.
Saturday, November 11, 2006 3:05:14 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Ah, I think I see the disconnect. Your "video gadget" isn't, AFAICT, a "widget" (in the W3C widget spec sense), because it runs in the context of the browser. This spec is concerned with what's commonly called "desktop widgets". And for those, you need a way to package them, and the various runtimes out there each have their own format for doing so. This spec is an attempt to standardize that format so that, for example, an AOL "weather module" might run in the Opera widget and Konfabulator runtimes.

Perhaps the spec doesn't make this distinction clear enough; I haven't had a good look.
Saturday, November 11, 2006 5:15:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
>This spec is an attempt to standardize that format so that, for example, an AOL "weather module" might run in the Opera widget and Konfabulator runtimes.

That seems like a pretty big stretch. Standardizing a packaging format won't buy you much there. After all, widget runtimes may use different technologies (e.g. Spring Widgets from Fox Interactive Media uses Flash while Microsoft's VIsta Sidebar uses DHTML). And even when they use the same core technology there are still platform differences that could make running widgets in different runtimes infeasible (e.g. Konfabulator uses proprietary markup while Vista Sidebar has custom Javascript APIs for querying system info although but use DHTML).

PS: Is it really the job of the W3C to be standardizing desktop technologies instead of the corresponding Web technologies?
Sunday, November 12, 2006 4:01:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The spec assumes the use of Web technologies in the package; HTML/CSS/Javascript.

From a scope POV, I guess it's a fuzzy line; but if it just takes one little spec to make Web technologies more useful on the desktop, I say go for it.
Sunday, November 12, 2006 10:05:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
We just won the BBC Backstage Widget competition with a Zeepe-based, Windows-only widget:

I haven't yet got around to reviewing the W3C draft, but unless they're taking notice of what we're doing with Zeepe then there's a good chance that we'll end up as "incompatible with the Widget 1.0 'standard'".

To which we and our many customers would probably have to say: "Tough".
Monday, November 20, 2006 3:34:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
lawn care
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