Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

Widgets and their uneasy truce with blogging platforms

Great original material from TechCrunch on widget companies: MySpace: Why We Block Widgets.

It’s been very interesting to watch widget companies and their relationships with the underlying blogging platforms. This is especially in the case of MySpace, which has more or less been hostile to big groups of companies.

Pro: Widgets provide customization and functionality the platforms don’t have
Con: Widgets are pieces of real estate that the platforms don’t control

How blogging platforms will act
Ultimately, the blogging platform has all the control in the relationship, and they are incented to act in two ways:

1) First, let any widget company start and flourish
2) Once it gets popular enough, either control it and charge it a toll, or block it and replicate in-house

Sound familiar? Well, Microsoft essentially did this to wrest control of Windows and the major cash cow products from other companies over time.

The tactics of control
The easiest way, in my opinion, to wrest control of widgets from the widget providers is to do it under the guise of safety and security.

So I’d provide two steps:
1) Create a "Certified Widget Program" that requires you to register widgets over X traffic
2) Then, for any widget that isn’t controlled, provide a popup or a notice to the user that their widget might be unsafe

As a third step, once widgets are registered:
3) Make the widgets agree to a bunch of legalese, including a non-commercial clause. And if it’s commercial, here’s your chance to broker a deal with our biz dev team

Thus, under the safety and spyware umbrella, they could enforce a lot of control over their ecosystem. I wouldn’t be surprised if a variation of this launches. It’d certainly be more subtle than just randomly turning off peoples’ stuff.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.