These are my notes from the session on Fox Interactive Media by Dan Strauss.
Fox Interactive Media (FIM) is the parent company of MySpace. Also owns MySpace, IGN, Fox.com, FoxSports.com, AskMen.com, Rotten Tomatoes and Gamespy. They have 120 million visitors across all the sites.
They are buying small dev teams like Sidereus and Newroo as well as big companies like MySpace & IGN. They created FIM Labs so that some of the small dev teams can coninue to be innovative. FIM Labs focuses on incubation of new technologies, product development and technology evangelization to FIM properties. The folks from Sidereus worked on the Spring Widgets platform. Announcing a new platform named Spring Widgets.
Why widgets? They have a goal of to cross-pollinating users across the various FIM properties and also create a platform that can tie their businesses together. Widgets have been gaining traction and seemed like the right vehicle for furthering their goals.
Sidereus had a desktop background and researched Konfabulator, Dashboard and Vista gadgets.They also looked at Web widgets specifically AJAX and Flash widgets being used by MySpace users. They want users to be able to add widgets for FIM websites to their MySpace profiles and their desktop. From the Sping platform site a user can find a widget then add it to my MySpace. No more cutting and pasting code, the experience is similar to Windows Live Gallery for MySpace. Users can also drag and drop widgets from the Web onto the desktop. Only the Windows desktop widgets are supported for now but Mac support is on the way.
The Spring Widgets platform is 100% flash. Adding a desktop widget requires installing the Spring widgets runtime in addition to having Flash installed. This runtime is less than 2MB. There is an SDK so widget developers get APIs that can tell if the user is onlne or offline, store some persistent state, tell certain UI conditions such as the widgets window size and more. There is also a Web simulation tool developers can test their widgets without having to upload them to a Website.
The talk was followed by a demo showing how easy it is to build a Spring widget using WYSIWYG Flash development tools. They also announced a partnership with FeedBurner.
There were several questions during the Q&A that resulted in an answer of "we're still figuring things out". It was clear that although the technology may be ready there are a number of policy questions that are still left to be answered such as whether there will be integration of the Spring Widgets site into the MySpace UI (similar to how Windows Live gallery is integrated into Windows Live Spaces or what the certification process will be for getting 3rd party widgets hosted on the Spring Widgets site?
Despite the open questions this is definitely a very bold move on the part of Fox Interactive Media. It does the question though that if every widget platform has its own certified widgets gallery that use their own platforms (e.g. Flash in the case of Spring Widgets, DHTML and XML in the case of Windows Live Gallery and proprietary markup in the case of Yahoo! Widgets Engine there is either going to have to be some standardization or else there may be a winner takes all where widget developers target one or two major widget platforms because they don't have the resources to support every homebrow Flash or AJAX platform out there.