What’s a widget?

Web 2.0 is a dizzying whirl of buzzwords, abstract concepts and downright obfuscation.

In 2008, one particular word came to prominence that people flung around with great seriousness and clearly no idea what the damn thing meant.

That word is “widget”.

First and foremost, in this context, widgets have nothing to do with beer cans, though the internet would be a better place if they did.

Nor, despite all appearances, is “widget” a word you throw in there when you don’t really know what a thing is.

So, what is a widget exactly? Well, Wikipedia describes it “a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation”. This explanation leads us to the question: what is a widget exactly?

It’s a box.

Now, the guardians of the arcane knowledge of the interwebs won’t like us putting like that but it’s true.

It’s a box (or rectangle or whatever) for putting content in. Or a game. Or another bit of software. Think of it as a  window on another bit of the web.

That box can appear on your Facebook page (along with all that “pirate” nonsense) or on your blog or webpage. It’s a simple way of easily adding something extra to your online presence without having to write any code.

It can also be a way of getting your content onto somebody else’s website or Facebook page. If you build a widget to display your content or message – and if that widget is useful or interesting – then people will recommend and spread it for you.

With the rise of social networking, people are increasingly getting their content this way, rather than through the more traditional routes. If you have an online message then you need widgets to get that message to certain demographics.

It is important for content providers (and that includes advertising and marketing) to be aware that, because of things like widgets, content lives on its own.

Thanks to widgets, your content can be spread far and wide without anyone needing to visit your site.

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