Thursday, January 05, 2006


Back in July 2005, Yahoo! bought Konfabulator, a shareware collection of desktop widgets that ran on both OSX and Windows. It included goodies like a weather widget, a calendar, a CPU monitor, and hundreds of third-party plugins. This type of thing has existed since "xeyes" was written, but everybody who sees it agrees that Konfabulator looks gorgeous; it has zazz.

Yahoo! released Konfabulator for free, which I appreciated, but I didn't understand how this fit into Yahoo!'s business plan. I thought maybe it was just a goodwill gesture to the internet at large.

Then, few weeks ago, they released a new version, renamed "Yahoo! Widgets". The new name lacks zazz, but other than that, Yahoo!'s new version of Konfabulator didn't look very different, other than a few new core widgets.

But as I played around with a few of the new widgets, I realized that Yahoo! has actually done something very cool: they've started to blur the line between their web applications and the desktop.

Yahoo! already has an online calendar/todo list and a notepad application, both associated with Yahoo! mail, but now you can access the same data from Konfabulator widgets. The new photo widget displays photos from Flickr; the new contacts rolodex widget uses your Yahoo! mail contacts list. All of a sudden I've got these applications that run on my desktop but store the information online. The desktop applications have more zazz than the web versions, but I can get to the same information from anywhere.

Take the next logical step: Imagine the apps you use every day, but when you hit save, the information was automatically saved online and available to you, everywhere, in a web version. A Word clone that saves online and also has a writely-style web interface; a Picasa clone that managed your Flickr photos directly; a Powerpoint clone that saved your documents as an online flash presentation; or a desktop text/html editor that saved your documents directly to the web, and could auto-publish to your blog. Who doesn't want those things?

This feels like the start of something very cool.

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