Google Widgets

In my recent post on Windows Live Gadgets I shot down Google because they hadn’t already created their own widget/gadget engine for creating hosted…well…widgets. It seems they were waiting because they could do it better. Today I found out through Slashdot that Google released their version.

Their widget API is available here. At first glance it seems that the Google widgets are a bit more robust and versatile than the Microsoft gadgets. I’ll be playing with these shortly to see what I can come up with and do a thorough compare/contrast. These are the differences I see (at first glance, mind you) between the two companies’ implementations of the same idea:

  • Google Widgets are aimed at a completely web-centric approach. They do not offer local Widgets like Microsoft Gadgets does. This is actually a win in my book.
  • Microsoft is using RSS syntax for their XML with some external javascript loaded along with it. (I’ll get more technical when I learn a bit more about the process). Google, on the other hand is using what appears to be their own proprietary markup with the inclusion of external javascript as well.
  • Microsoft’s implementation prevents the use of the id tag which makes doing some sweet dynamic stuff…well…painful. Google allows it, and goes a step further. They include a sweet little feature called __MODULE_ID__ that you can tack on to the end of your id tags so things will work fine with multiple instances of your widget on the same page. Another win for Google.

Like I said with the Windows Live and MSN Start post, I’ll be doing some heavy research into these widgets and gadgets and bring forth more details and some example code.

MSN Start & Windows Live Gadgets

MSN Start and Windows Live, which are competitors for Google/ig have jumped ahead of google and are now offering a repository for developers to create XML/javascript based ‘gadgets’!

There are two types of gadgets. A remotely hosted gadget, where a site like MasterWish would create a gadget and make the URL to the gadget’s XML file publicly available; the user then enters the URL and viola! The gadget is added! (after a confirmation) The second type of gadget is the locally hosted gadget, where you can store a gadget on your machine (Windows only). You load the gadget in the same way you do a hosted gadget…There seem to be a few catches with the local gadgets:

  • First and foremost, its not web centric…the gadget is on your machine. If you head on over to a friend’s house, that gadget won’t be available to you.
  • The local gadgets must be coded as such.
  • Windows only

The benefits with the locally hosted gadget? Well, you can do some more advanced stuff with them like messing with your local applications. For example, there are some gadgets out there that manipulate the data from iTunes…the gadgets are pretty sweet. Local gadgets are neat…but I’m not sold on them.

What really throws me for a loop is that Microsoft implemented gadgets before Google…you’d think Google would see this coming. tsk tsk tsk. All the same, I’m going to do some little experiments with gadgets and see what I can come up with.

Windows Live

I just read an article over at Slashdot about Windows Live. It seems that Microsoft has decided to attempt to clone Google/ig, while currently Microsoft’s “Windows Live” is simply a mimic, they promise to have much more.

What’s Google/ig? Its a drag and drop portal-like web app that aggregates rss feeds and some handy tools; like the weather, movie reviews, word of the day, etc. Google/ig is simplistic. Its sexy. Its Ajax heavy (which isn’t a bad thing). I’ve been using Google/ig since they released it to the public and have been thoroughly impressed. Once again Google has set the bar high enough that Microsoft has taken notice and is attempting to duplicate….and they are doing it well.

Whats sexy about Windows Live?

  • Its Free
  • Its Simplistic
  • Its using a crap ton of AJAX
  • Windows Live supposedly expects to have an online Microsoft Office Suite that will be paid for by using ads rather than money from my wallet (sounds like Writely)
  • Check out this article at for more stuff that is planned.

But in addition to all that, it seems Microsoft has adopted the Web 2.0 method of using a perpetual beta. Think about it. When was the last time that happened from Microsoft? Oh, and along with the public beta release, they also have a happy-go-lucky communication with end users. Right now I’m looking at the Windows Live site with Flock and see the following at the top of the page:

Firefox Users
Firefox support is coming soon. Please be patient :-)

Smiley face and all. Seems more personal. Seems more enticing. Makes Windows Live seem to have promise. Alright, so its just a smiley face and I may be jumping to conclusions…but I highly doubt that even Microsoft can fight the Web 2.0 and its heavy social aspects and its community driven contributions. Is Microsoft conforming? We can only hope.

Well…I can see a major drawback.

  • It uses the .NET passport. Major suck.

In closing, while Windows Live looks nifty and has some pretty cool stuff, I’m loyal to Google and will remain an avid Google/ig user until Windows Live does something that actually wows me and makes me crap my pants.