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In computing, a web widget is a software widget for the web. It's a small application with limited functionality that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user. A widget has the role of a transient or auxiliary application, meaning that it just occupies a portion of a webpage and does something useful with information fetched from other websites and displayed in place. Other terms used to describe web widgets include: portlet, web part, gadget, badge, module, snippet and flake. Widgets are typically created in DHTML or Adobe Flash.
Widgets often take the form of on-screen devices such as clocks, event countdowns, auction-tickers, stock market tickers, flight arrival information, daily weather etc..
A widget is a stand-alone application that can be embedded into third party sites by any user on a page where they have rights of authorship, e.g. a webpage, blog,[dead link] or profile on a social media site. Widgets allow users to turn personal content into dynamic web apps that can be shared on websites where the code can be installed. For example, a "Weather Report Widget" could allow anyone to report today's weather by accessing data from the Weather Channel, it could even be sponsored by the Weather Channel. For website visitors to view, it must be embedded in a webpage, such as a Blogger blog sidebar. Even the portion of a blog where the ads are displayed is a widget.
Widgets were also added to the Windows Operating System. They first appeared in Windows Vista. The default widgets include clock, CPU meter, picture puzzle and image slideshow. In 2012 Microsoft advised widget users to disable these from their PCs out of security concerns.
Web developers have used third party code chunks in pages. Early web widgets provided functions such as link counters and advertising banners.
Sites such as MassPublisher, FormLoop and Widgetbox allow users to easily create widgets from their own content with no coding knowledge necessary.
Major widget types
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Widgets come in many shapes and sizes, but two of the major types today are Web widgets and Desktop widgets. Web widgets are intended for use on (embedding in) webpages and have major implications in areas such as site performance, SEO and even backlink campaigns. Desktop widgets are embedded on local computers, and do not impact SEO or webpage performance.
As an example, Widgetbox generate Web widgets that can be used on almost any website but not on pages using SSL (URLs beginning with https). Apple Desktop widgets can only be added to the desktop of your local (Apple) computer.
End users primarily use widgets to enhance their personal web experiences, or the web experiences of visitors to their personal sites.
The use of widgets has proven increasingly popular, where users of social media are able to add stand-alone applications to blogs, profiles and community pages. Widgets add utility in the same way that an iPhone application does. The developers of these widgets are often offering them as a form of sponsored content, which can pay for the cost of the development when the widgets' utility maps to the user's needs in a way where both parties gain. For example, a sports news brand might gain awareness and increased audience share in exchange for the utility of current game scores being instantly and dynamically available - the blog which posted the Sports score widget might gain in having a stickier site.
Element of control
One important factor with Widgets is that the host does not control the content. The content or the functionality it provides cannot be modified by the host. The content is pre-published by the publisher/author/service provider and the host can either accept that content or not use the widget. The host does, however, control the placement of the Widget. Because the host can always take the Widget down, it assures a large degree of mutual advantage and satisfaction with performance and content.
As any program code, widgets can be used for malicious purposes. One example is the Facebook “Secret Crush” widget, reported in early 2008 by Fortinet as luring users to install Zango adware.[dead link]
Widget management systems
Widget management systems offer a method of managing widgets that works on any web page, such as a blog or social networking home page. Many blog systems come with built-in widget management systems as plug-ins. Users can obtain widgets and other widget management tools from various widget companies.
Mobile Web widget
A Mobile Web widget has the same purpose and function as a web widget, but it is made for use on a mobile device such as mobile phone or tablet. In contrast, a web widget is on a personal computer or laptop computer
The W3C is creating a set of standards for web widgets.
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- Rajesh Lal; Developing Web Widget with HTML, CSS, JSON and AJAX (ISBN 9781450502283)
- Soylu, A., Wild, F., Mödritscher, F., Desmet, P., Verlinde, S., De Causmaecker, P. (2011). Mashups and Widget Orchestration. The International Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems, MEDES 2011. San Francisco, California, USA, 21–24 November 2011. ACM.