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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Transcript of w00tonomy Content Marketing cast – final part

Each day this week we are publishing one of the questions and answers from the Content Marketing cast interview with Mark Gorman. At the end of the week we will provide all the question and answers in the form of a w00tonomy e-book. Hope you enjoy!

Stewart: Looking beyond Scotland to where perhaps the online market is more mature……What are the innovations that you are excited about online at the moment?

Mark: Well, there is a new innovation every day, isn’t there! Some of which are completely meaningless, completely useless and are just a fashion items. We saw big excitement amongst my circle of friends last year about the rise of Facebook as it moved out of the student generation into a wider group but already the talk is Facebook……well that was so 2007. So, I think that the danger is that there is a lot of bandwagon jumping going on, and that the bandwagons people are jumping on don’t necessarily have any strong marketing role in the mix…they’re just a bit of fun. Really, the industry…the digital communications marketplace needs to settle down a little bit I think and find real strong communications tools, vehicles and sites coming through.

Stewart: If you had to pick an online property or innovation you felt was going to last, that was of use…What would it be?

Mark: Well having just dissed Facebook, I think that there is potentially, the applications that work with Facebook, once you get rid of the killing Zombies type applications and look at the social networking opportunities that lie there…may well give it a great deal of resonance. But there is some fairly fundamental biggies out there. I have been reading recently about a thing called “The Grid”…that says…this is a thing coming out of Cern in Switzerland where the worldwide web was invented…and says that this will give instant access to the internet and is a new form of internet. I don’t know enough about it but it does sound very interesting and it does for me touch on a pretty major issue which I am starting to see…and I think that part of it is down to the impact that BBC iPlayer has had. iPlayer, great idea but it sucks up bandwidth. From personal experience it looks to me like there is major contention issues coming through even on 8MB width that you are getting from your local BT server…whatever. If that is true and that starts to grow, it’s going to really frustrate people about the opportunities that the web brings and it’s going to drive people away because we all remember what is was like using a 56k modem…which just didn’t work. So that I think is an issue.

Stewart: …and finally…if you could ‘kill’ any website, which website would you ‘kill’?

Mark: Msn!

Stewart:Good man…..Mark Gorman, thank you very much.