Services & Software

Widgetbox's App Accelerator turns widgets into Facebook apps

People can make their own Facebook applications, and now Widgetbox users can make them faster with App Accelerator, a new Web-based helper tool. CNET Editor Jessica Dolcourt tested it out with her very own Webware application for Facebook.

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Widgetbox today announced App Accelerator, a step-by-step guide and tool for creating Facebook applications from Widgetbox widgets. The blandly named App Accelerator shrewdly connects the community developers of Widgetbox's widget marketplace with Facebook's burgeoning user community. Talk about viral marketing.

The conversion works by adapting Widgetbox's Flash and HTML/JavaScript code for Facebook compatibility. There's a lot of link-swapping involved, and much of App Accelerator's ease-of-use can be attributed to Widgetbox's assumption of several routing URLs.

The checklist guides you through Facebook application creation. CNET Networks

Widgetbox has done its usability homework in creating a friendly, check-listed step-by-step guide that walks users through what might otherwise be a confusing process. Still, I ran into some problems using App Accelerator, including some URL pasting mistakes that rendered my new application useless and significantly delayed this review. This is something I hope Widgetbox and Facebook will both limit in the future with appropriate error sensing and alerts.

Since the proprietary service only converts Widgetbox widgets, I needed to begin by registering and building a widget. I used Widgetbox's Blidget tool (read Webware review) to create a widget of "my" blog (I used, of course.)

Next I needed to register as a Facebook developer; easily done through Widgetbox's prominent link. After converting the blog into a widget, I was offered the opportunity to "promote" it on Facebook. Don't be fooled; this isn't App Accelerator's work. Rather, it crashed my Firefox browser, then posted an image of my blidget to my Facebook mini feed, as a video.

Converting the widget into a Facebook application takes some time to set up, but like any other helper application (like love-to-hate-it tax software), it's more lengthy than grueling. You can test the Facebook application before publishing, and edit it at any time.

Webware widget
My Webware application demo in Facebook CNET Networks

When the new application is set up, Widgetbox closes the loop by linking your Facebook application to the widget itself. Any change to the widget also changes Facebook. Since my demo application is a blidget, new posts will show on the Widgetbox blog, and trigger an update on the Facebook application.

In some ways it's a shame I chose to demo App Accelerator with a blidget. Most Facebook applications launch in a separate window when you click them, taking interaction off the user's profile page (the Facebook-developed Wall is a notable exception). It is therefore tragironic that my Webware blog, whose sole purpose is to make reading headlines instantaneous, never graces my Facebook profile page, and instead is stationed one click in.

According to Dean Moses, Widgetbox's CTO, this is the most requested feature among the company's 15,000-plus Facebook "developers" and 1.4 million widget subscribers. A fix is under way.

I also stumbled upon one more bug; the fact that a logo shows up only when you've added it to Widgetbox when you first create a widget. I purposely withheld adding an image to my blidget to test how quickly and how well editing the Facebook applications works through Widgetbox. I should be able to change the logo via soon as four other users adopt my application. A fix for that, too, is coming out soon.

If the glee of having created your own Facebook application without fretting the particulars (like your side nav URL) isn't incentive enough to try App Accelerator, Widgetbox has upped the ante. The DevShareprogram taps into your personal greed, ahem, business savvy, to split any profits you might acquire from associating your widget to ad content, 50-50.

Monetizing schemes aside, Widgetbox's Facebook conversion engine is a strong start, and a valuable free service for its community of widget developers.

Correction: This article originally misstated the number of Widgetbox Facebook developers.