Thursday, July 05, 2007

Widgets And The Notion Of Citizen Networks

Thursday, July 5, 2007
Widgets And The Notion Of Citizen Networks
By Dave Morgan


Widgets are getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. Not only can you do lots of cool things with highly distributable Web objects, but all of the major Web platforms, from Google to Yahoo to content publishers like and, are embracing them. Finally, the Web is permitting consumers to personalize their Web experiences in ways beyond just the historical "check-box personalization" -- where personal pages were just modified versions of home pages with localized weather and filtered news. Now, users can not only fill their personal browsing pages with widgets of every favorite type of content or application, but they can open those pages to their friends, or the Web at large, and share that same browsing experience with many, many others.

This notion, that Web users are not only personalizing their own browsing experience, but that they can proactively share it with others, is likely to bring some very significant changes to the online advertising industry. How so?

Just as Web blogs and blogging gave rise to citizen journalism, widgets will give rise to citizen publishers, citizen syndicators and, most important, citizen networks. Citizen journalism has been in vogue for some time now. The notion of every and any user becoming a journalist and offering up their own content for the masses was enabled by introduction of free, easy-to-use blogging tools. Today, there are millions and millions of such "journalists" around the world, writing and opining on everything from news events to cooking to their nightmare from last night. This form of journalism has taken off and is thriving and, with the introduction of easy-to-use advertising programs like Google's AdSense and Yahoo's Publisher Network, these activities have become much more than just vanity plays.

People are making real money on these little sites. These citizen journalists aren't all amateurs any more. They're earning income. It may be small today, but it is real money nevertheless, and it is certain to become much more significant over time.

So, where do widgets fit in? Now, people can import much more content and functionality into their Web pages, whether they are personal pages on MySpace or blog pages. They are assembling more complete consumer media solutions. They are becoming not just writers, but citizen publishers. Since there are many commercial widgets, they now can get paid from sources beyond text ads from AdSense; they can even receive payments from movie studios for putting movie trailers on their pages. Further, they can redistribute these widgets, including the commercial ones, to other citizen publishers for placement on their sites. Thus, they become syndicators.

The speed and power of this viral distribution is already putting to shame similar centralized "professional" efforts. These "citizens" are creating their own "networks" -- their own groups of sites, publishers, journalists and users that they connect with regularly and interact with constantly, distributing and redistributing items among themselves. Over time, I think, these will become commercial ad networks that will rival the professional media-driven ones. They will become direct distributors of large blocks of online advertising. When? Maybe in two years. What do you think?


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