At Monday's Le Web 3 conference in Paris, Netvibes announced the launch of its latest version which adds support for Google's OpenSocial and Facebook Connect, alongside several new ways to view widgetized content.
The OpenSocial element may be one of the most interesting aspects, as it's now paired with Netvibe's Universal Widget API, allowing developers to create widgets that can pull information from a user's social network. In the example demoed at the conference, Netvibes showed off a weather widget which displayed the user's weather, along with that of their friends. The user didn't have to set up that friends list; it simply came over with their credentials from other social networks. The same back end could be used to make a couch-surfing widget where you get friends' listings when looking up flights or hotel reservations in a particular city.
For widgets, this kind of openness is a big deal. Typically widgets are a self-serving piece of Web code that provide a limited container of information. With Netvibes' system, this information can become more targeted and personalized even before you go in to make initial changes.
Besides the OpenSocial integration, the biggest change users are likely to notice is the selection of new layouts which allow tall widgets to be displayed lengthwise. Users have several choices in preset layouts, and each widget is set up to span accordingly. This is mostly helpful for media rich widgets, which can now properly display 16:9 widescreen video content without having to scale it down to fit. It's also really great for landscape photos, and long-form written content.
Speaking of which, there are new ways to read blog content from widgets, including a new canvas view which loads up the page right inside of Netvibes without jumping you somewhere else. You're also able to format incoming RSS stories into what looks like a slideshow gallery and a headline ticker which creates a neat, if slightly useless scrolling marquee of incoming stories.
You can read about all the updates over at the Netvibes blog. Also, below is a video of what the theme switching looks like:
Netvibes : Flexible Layout from Netvibes on Vimeo.