Unofficially obsessed with Google.

Google Homepage API takes on Yahoo Widgets (and Microsoft Gadgets)

12/13/2005 11:02:00 PM
Borked by Yahoo's takeover and subsequent re-relase of Konfabulator as Yahoo Widgets, Google has had a bit of catching up to do in the user-customization area. Even Microsoft has had its Microsoft Gadgets without Google suggesting a competitor. Google has finally responded in its latest Google Blog post with the announcement of the Google Homepage API. (Yes, they've had customizability with Google Desktop, but that wasn't quite in the same vein as Widgets/Gadgets/Dashboard.)

On first glance, the Google offering seems shoddy. All that's currently available are a time module, an eyeball module, a Google maps weather module (which has been far outdone by individual Map mashers), and some useless other modules. Yahoo's (ex-Konfabulator) Widgets are the most useful things after Firefox extensions with search mods, GTD mods, MP3 mods, and any number of other useful widgets.

On second glance, the Google Homepage API release will probably mean extraordinary things in terms of developer response and eventually evolution of module capacity. For non-developers, if you're willing to sit on your hands for a bit, I bet we'll see some elegant little applications popping up in the module directory. So, developers get to work! For non-techies, Google suggests that you can start by making your own with the traditional first programming project's "Hello World" output.

A couple of other quick comparison notes: Google's modules are intended for inline rendering on the personalized Google homepage. Yahoo's are take-along desktop modules. Each has his own estimation of what's more convenient in the long run, so pick and choose as you will. But unless developers can move the Google modules off the homepage, then their usefulness is only as strong as users' desire to use the personalized Google homepage. Also, in terms of pure aesthetics, Yahoo's Widgets are based on Konfabulator's bubbly/chromey/machinistic styling while Google's concept here is its familiar "no design is good design." For GTDers, that simplicity might appeal more while for the younger video game crew, the Widgets will better suit. Next, Google takes a real loss here in the naming race. With Yahoo already squeezing out Widgets and Microsoft creating Gadgets, Google could have at least done "Mods" or "Gizmos" or found some other cute and familiar name for these things. This is an uncharacteristic naming misstep for Google, but one I think that was made out of necessity in order to keep from sounding like a Widget/Gadget wannabe (and also to make it seem more like a developer opportunity than an entertainment subcategory). On a positive note, Google wins in the accessibility category with Google modules open to users on all platforms--Yahoo's are open to users who take time to download their Widget app and MS Gadgets are only useful to surfers who like Windows-centric Most people use Google independently of their operating system preference, so, ++Google in that regard.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Google's module directory will grow. The process for seeing a new module to completion is creation, submission to Google for review, and then hopefully approval and addition of the new module to the directory. No word on what qualifies as a good or useful module other than the coding requirements of robustness and security. If they can speed things up a bit better than Firefox's extensions gallery, then they've got a sure winner. My bet is that they have a couple dozen backloaded and ready to pop up in the directory at timed intervals over the next few weeks (in order to provide function while developers get their feet wet).

But, I for one, welcome our new Google API overlords. Here's to hoping some amazing tools surface as a result.


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