Apps vs. Widgets

Are apps just the updated version of widgets? Today Peter Kim asks that very question:

Remember widgets? In the early days of corporate social media (i.e. 2005 – 2006), widgets were all the rage. They were light and viral; the minimal effort to support them post-lauch made them more attractive to brands than blogs or podcasts.

What also made them attractive to brands was an ability to fairly easily reformat existing content. This meant they could “be social” without much additional work. Thing is, widgets were a pain in the ass. If you weren’t a fairly skilled nerd, and let’s face it, most people aren’t, you wouldn’t know what to do with widget installation code if you life depended on it.

The other issue with widgets is the platform. The iPhone or Facebook as the platform inherently allow vastly more people to use apps than widgets ever did. The difference between app success as a concept and widget success is almost entirely based on the platform(s) by which they are delivered.

Generally, Peter is absolutely correct when he says:

If you’ve been trying to figure out how to think about the new world of applications, look back at your resources on widgets and run a find-and-replace…it might get you up to speed sooner than you imagined.

But it’s important to be clear that while the underlying thinking of apps and widgets is extremely similar, don’t be convinced that we’re going through the same thing we did when widgets were the rage a few years back. Widgets, and the ensuing conversation, helped to get us to a point where small, inexpensive applications could be easily delivered. But today’s apps and yesterday’s widgets are absolutely not the same thing, anymore than the Model T and a Prius are the same thing.