Netvibes CEO Tariq Krim Twittered earlier today from the Widget Summit, "Just finished my talk at Widget Summit announcing that Netvibes widgets works now on Vista, Live.com, and Yahoo Widgets." This is great news for widget fans, like me, who are often frustrated to find that a module they like on one platform (say, Netvibes) isn't available on another (Yahoo) or vice versa. Today, when it comes to widgets, no matter which platform you use, you lose.
Netvibes' Universal Widget API (UWA) is a big step in the right direction. It's been developing since March of this year and is finally reaching a level of refinement that makes it usable by consumers. (For the inside word, go to the developer's site.)
Although the technology works as advertised, early adopters will find their choices limited. Of the nearly 90,000 Netvibes widgets, only 1,000 or so are built in the new UWA format. I found that many of the most popular (and oldest) widgets were not yet available for other platforms. Likewise many RSS-based widgets. Krim told me Netvibes will be converting widgets over the next few weeks. Here's the current directory of UWA widgets.
UWA Netvibes widgets can be easily added to iGoogle, Apple Dashboard, Opera, Windows Vista, and Windows Live. Yahoo's Widget Engine isn't an option yet for any modules, though. Krim jumped the gun on announcing it.
The procedure for adding a Netvibes UWA widget to a different platform varies, but is straightforward. For Web platforms, like iGoogle, you just click on the iGoogle button from the Netvibes widget directory page, and then confirm when you're redirected to your iGoogle page. For desktop platforms, like Vista or Opera, you download and install the widget file from within the target app or OS itself, and click through a security pop-up.
While not as universal--yet--as the acronym aspires to, the concept of platform-independent widgets is great. It's what real people want. It's also what developers need: it reduces the risk of developing a widget, and could encourage developers to put more creativity and effort into their work.