Widgets – Battering Ram for Social Networking

    January 31, 2007

When on a social networking panel last week I said something that can be seen as stupid or insightful.

Widgets are the battering ram for social networking sandcastles.

Since inception, social networking services have been islands amidst the web. Early calls for interop and identity ownership didn’t lead to results, even with Marc Canter barking “FOAF” at every event. Meta-networks make sense in theory, but not as a business like many things meta. Trending towards P2P or personal ownership through client or service is even more ideal, but such decentralization never took root.

Perhaps something is happening now. With the rise to traffic and time prominence of MySpace, entrepreneurs and hackers worked their way into the system, because, well, there is no thing as a closed system. Widgets started to appear. Most notably, the YouTube widget made its way enough to build a $1B business, depending on how you measure, before MySpace caught on to the video opportunity they were giving away. But the next YouTube wont be video, and stuff comes from all angles when users are empowered to paste Javascript. Smaller players will make this even easier, with wizards to add widgets. And the blogosphere from which all this independently froths will keep driving the widget economy.

This is the walled garden under siege by gophers. No, not those gophers, but the ones that tunnel in a thousand directions and drive Bill Murray nuts. People will discover new services wherever the traffic and time is. Some services may overlay social networking as a service, like MyBlogLog does with a degree of execution. Attention follows. Value shifts to networks that provide both the right attention, openness and composition. My bet is a derivative of blogs.



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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.