Sunday, September 16, 2007

Inverting the Portal with Widgets

When My Yahoo! first came out, many people spent hours and hours building tabs of customized content. For the first time, you could easily select from a wide array of content and bring it to your own home page.

Very quickly, portal servers made it into the enterprise, offering the capability for various groups in a company to deliver deliver portlets that could be rolled up into a pages for customers or for employees to customize what data they saw on their homepage. A lot of enterprises adopted portal servers but found that portlets were obtuse to create and that portal servers inordinately expensive for the security and management features they provided.

When Google first introduced what is known as iGoogle, it was at first very similar to My Yahoo! Google came up with their own obtuse way of creating gadgets (their word for widgets) and an ecosystem of gadgets materialized for the iGoogle homepage. When Google introduced "Google Gadgets for Your Homepage," users could take widgets hosted at Google and add them to their blogs, wikis - anywhere on the web. All of a sudden, Google Gadgets took off into the stratosphere!

Using the widget model to decouple the content frames from the portal metaphor offers all of the benefits of a portal with the flexibility of distributed content. Distributed portal sites like iGoogle and NetVibes are in the vanguard, with SaaS companies like Salesforce quickly moving to this new model. Inside enterprises, the ability to deliver interactive content to both the existing portal infrastructure or in a wiki or blog is an extremely efficient method if sharing information across groups.

Portals are an excellent aggregation and discovery point for widgets. As the iGoogle experience counter intuitively shows, portals become even more useful when their content can be run outside of the portal!

No comments: