Yahoo has upgraded its platform of tiny desktop applications, called widgets, to include better integration with the portal's mapping services and search offerings. Yahoo has a small army of developers working on new widgets in an effort to draw more users to the site.
In releasing Widget Engine 3.0, Yahoo made three significant upgrades, said Arlo Rose, director of the company's widget technology. The first is "frames" for streaming content feeds, such as RSS, to the scaled-down applications.
Also, widgets now support XML data for access to server data. Users can log in to Yahoo's system through the widgets and access a wide variety of information, such as address book and calendar information, without having to use a browser window.
Widgets are lightweight applications that reside on the desktop and perform tasks that range from checking for Wi-Fi availability to accessing e-mail. The technology initially was known as Konfabulator and developed by Pixoria, a company purchased by Yahoo earlier this year.
Yahoo has distributed over 1.5 million copies of the renamed Yahoo widgets platform, with some 10 million downloads of the tools by users thus far. The latest iteration is available for Windows and Mac users.
"This is a great way for people to start using Yahoo services without a Web connection," Rose said. "We now have a community of developers working on new widgets, combining APIs to create a wide selection of applications." Widget Engine 3.0 is the first version to include contributions from the Yahoo Developer Network, he said.
Drawing More Users
Among the new widgets unveiled this week are a mapping application integrated with Yahoo Maps; an update of the photo-display widget that now displays photos from Yahoo Photos, Flickr, or images stored on the computer; and a desktop-search application that eliminates the need for you to open a browser window.
In theory, any Yahoo property -- movie trailers, television listings, and sports scores -- could potentially be accessed by a widget. The goal is to encourage user experimentation and provide new ways to view the company's Web site information. While access to the widgets is free, Yahoo expects the software will generate more interest in its services and help the company expand its advertising base.
More than 2,000 widgets created by third-party developers are available for download from Yahoo. "Developers can now tap in to our open infrastructure to create the coolest little mini applications around," said Rose.