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Beautiful little widgets locked in Flash: YourMinis

YourMinis is a nice service that puts two current Web 2.0 themes together: Widgets and Aggregators.

YourMinis, from the Goowy team, is a nice service that puts two current Web 2.0 themes together: Widgets and Aggregators. It's like Yahoo Widgets meets NetVibes. YourMinis gives you a page that you can modify with your own mix of widgets--RSS feeds, Flickr images, video feeds, weather and time blocks, and so on. The widgets and the YourMinis container page are all in Flash, and the widgets are very pretty to look at and easy to move around on the page. You can also do things with them (such as rotate them arbitrarily, for a scrapbook effect) that you can't do on Ajax start pages, such as NetVibes.

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But essentially, YourMinis lets you create a personal pages much like those from NetVibes, PageFlakes, WebWag, Google, Microsoft Live, or My Yahoo, which raises the question: Why? The Flash "minis" are attractive, but the eye candy on the YourMinis page does slow things down a bit, and other start pages (such as NetVibes) offer more modules.

Fortunately, there's more to YourMinis than the destination site. There's also a browser plug-in (for only Firefox and Flock so far; a bookmarklet with less functionality is also available for IE) that puts YourMinis within instant reach whenever you're using the Web: You press Ctrl-~ or click a button in the status bar, and you get a "heads-up" view of your widgets on top of your Web page, much like the widgets view on a Mac desktop.

The plug-in also monitors any page you're viewing and sniffs out RSS feeds, attached MP3 files (podcasts), and data coded in microformats (example:'s calendar items), and it makes it easy to extract those components to your YourMinis page. Two new plug-in features are also launching today. First, the system will gain an awareness of social networks. If you visit a social network site, such as MySpace, you'll be able to use YourMinis to quickly bookmark friends or add them to your network. Second, YourMinis will gain the capability to easily snag photos on popular photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr, Photobucket, and Webshots.

The downside to YourMinis is its reliance on the browser. It can't yet display its widgets on a computer's desktop the way Yahoo Widgets and SpringWidgets can or as Vista will be able to. I'm all for adding functionality to the Web browsing experience, but YourMinis widgets would be a lot more useful if they weren't imprisoned in the browser. Goowy CEO Alex Bard told me that when Adobe ships its Apollo technology, YourMinis should be able to leave the browser and work on your desktop; the system will also synchronize your desktop widgets on any computers you use.

Bottom line: The YourMinis desktop and heads-up displays are pretty and fun to use. I still prefer a lighter-weight start page than one based on Flash, but I do like the way the YourMinis plug-in recognizes "Mini-able" items on any page. That's a feature I expect other start pages to add soon.

See also an alternate view from TechCrunch and my take on Flash desktops from earlier this year.