Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Say Goodbye to Yahoo! Widgets

Yahoo! has announced that they are dropping support for the Yahoo! Widget Engine (Konfabulator) and will be dropping the desktop Widget gallery effective April 12. The brief history on this is that Konfabulator is a product first developed on the Mac and then ported to Windows that allowed easy development of cross-platform HTML/Javascript based widgets that run on your desktop. Yahoo! bought the shareware product from the developer (and hired the developer) and released it for free. Over 6000 widgets were developed by the community, most of whom were just individuals wanting to contribute. This got the attention of Apple, Microsoft, and Google and they all developed their own copycat but platform-specific solutions. Yahoo! provided a gallery so that authors could upload in one place and users could download in one place. They built in functionality so that when a widget was downloaded it would automatically install and make it very easy for the users. Using the gallery meant you could keep count of downloads and have comments and ratings. It was all good. And on April 12, 2012 it will be all gone.

Yahoo! Widgets represent everything I like about computers. Widgets were not protected, so you could learn techniques by examining the code of other authors. They were free so you could download and test them out on a whim. They were tiny and consumed very little system resources.  They were cross-platform so it didn't matter whether you were running on Windows or Mac.  They did not require any expensive IDE or tools to create. They did not require purchasing a library of books just to create "Hello, World." And now, like Apple's similar product HyperCard, they are being discarded into the waste basket.  It is a shame when products that have these features are discarded when there is no similar product to take their place. Writing iPhone or Android apps is certainly possible, but the entry point is far higher.  Writing Windows Widgets or Google Gadgets or Mac OS X Dashboard Widgets can be done, but they are platform specific, and therefore subject to the whims of one company.

Time marches on, but it is a tragedy that repositories of knowledge are discarded in the wake.

Photos from Konfabulator Developer Day 2007 at Yahoo! HQ

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