Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Netvibes Puts Web Surfers in Control - Developers Take Note

Netvibes has its own Developers’ Network. Just a glance at the page tells you they’re committed to “write once, run everywhere.” Using the Universal Widget API, developers can create widgets for users that will run on a wide range of widget platforms and blog systems. The company specifically lists Google IG and Apple Dashboard, and implies they’ll work with many more.

The documentation page seems to be very complete to my non-programmer eyes. Judging from the skeleton example shown, a Netvibes widget is written with XHTML, JavaScript, and CSS. It includes several parts: a header, a model, a controller, and view parts for structure and style. The sample is very clearly shown, in step-by-step fashion. If you’re used to coding for the web, you shouldn’t have significant difficulties creating a widget. You do have to be very careful about writing well-formed code.

There are plenty of how-to sections, including how to turn an RSS feed into a widget and how to test your new widget. There are at least four different example widgets, including one from and one that shows an astronomy picture of the day. Of course you’ll find the specifications and a frequently asked questions page.

There’s a developers’ mailing list and an official UWA forum. When I checked it, there were less than 600 posts ranging over 160-some threads. Most of the threads centered on questions about the UWA, but there were also plenty of interesting posts in the Widget Wish List forum from those who had ideas for widgets and couldn’t code them. There is also a Widget Showcase section; apparently widgets that deliver the winning numbers for particular lotteries (after the event of course) are pretty popular, but there was also a virtual fireplace, a chat module, and a widget that let you search for Marmiton recipes.

Marmiton recipes? Well, why not? If there’s someone on the web who built it, there’s probably someone else on the web who wants to see it. In that sense, Netvibes is a middleman like eBay. But it’s not money that’s changing hands, it’s attention, and that’s a far more valuable coin.