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Google's Universal Gadgets woos developers

The search company is now allowing Web developers to use its mini applications on their own sites.

Search giant Google has announced it is opening up its Gadgets framework to Web developers, allowing them to add Universal Gadgets to their pages.

Google Gadgets has been available to end users to add to their Google home pages and desktops since the May release of the Desktop 4 beta. Google announced on Tuesday that users will now be able to use Gadgets in their own Web pages.

Like many other widget frameworks, Google Gadgets use HTML, XML and JavaScript to create mini applications. These applets have typically accessed data from other Google services, such as Calendar or Maps, or from independent applets created by developers. The applications are promoted as an easy way to add dynamic content to Web pages.

Web page creators have been able to create their own Gadgets for some time using the Google Gadgets API, and can use pre-existing Universal Gadgets from Google or third parties--which include date and time, jokes and horoscopes--to add to their own sites.

Google is encouraging developers to share their code with others by publishing them in its Gadgets directory.

"Google encourages gadget authors to share their specifications," states the Google Gadgets API developer guide. One of the advantages to developers is that you "can get your name out there," according to Google blogger Matt Cutts.

"Now anyone can have a great-looking Web site with automatically updating content," said Adam Sah, Google Gadgets architect. "By making Google Gadgets available for you to add to your Web page, we're working to connect developers with enthusiastic consumers and to make information universally accessible and useful to the individual user."

The code for Gadgets is published as XML files on the Web, where Google's servers can access them and process the code. The XML file can contain all of the data and code for the gadget, or have a manifest of components that includes URLs for finding the rest of the elements. Gadgets are used by including some JavaScript in the developer's Web pages, and because they do need to pass through Google's systems, they can't be used offline or independently of the company.

Tom Espiner of Builder UK reported from London.