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A year ago this month AOL acquired Goowy which included the Goowy desktop and the YourMinis widget creation tools. Goowy was one of those companies (like Feedburner) that had great potential and I was a bit disappointed when they went under the AOL umbrella. Back in October AOL announced that the main YourMinis site was going to be discontinued but widgets would continue to work.
Update: In the comments, Gary Benitt from yourminis/AOL notes that they have removed the ads and are working on better ads and will also make an announcement when the ads begin again. Thanks Gary!
On our sister site HTMLCenter, we run a Yourminis widget which includes the latest posts from CN (you can see two examples below). When I did my cruise around the sites this morning something made me do a double-take. The Yourminis widget now has an ad inside the widget! But not only is it any ad, it’s a completely non-targeted ad. And on the first load, it was that ^%$&@$*@$ stomach ad. Unlike many of the major tech blogs, I absolutely refuse the run the stomach ads that seem to be everywhere. I spent hours making sure they never appear on any of my network of sites. I’d be ok with an ad in the widget as long as the ad was targeted and I could provide a banned companies list.
I was on a panel last summer in Washington where we discussed widgets and widget advertising. I believe widget advertising will still be huge this year. Why? Exactly for reasons like this. You find a widget you like and install it into a popular post. You don’t come back to check the widget each day and so you missed the fact that the company jammed an ad (or other content) into the widget without notifying you. This is going to be a hot topic this year especially if the economy continues to decline.
The example I used on the panel included the following: let’s say you install a widget for a new movie that’s coming out in theaters. What happens to that widget once the movie has left the theater? Does the movie company have the right to change the content of the widget without notifying the site owner? Once consumer brands realize that by getting a user to install a widget they own a piece of real estate for free "for life" brands will start creating widgets on an exponential scale. Why pay for just a simple ad unit when you can push out a widget at the same time?
Part of the issue with widgets is that unlike ad networks, there’s no real record of where the widgets are posted and who is the site contact. I strongly believe that widget creators have a responsibility to notify the site owners when content in the widget changes. Even if it means they need to go to every single site where the widget is installed and send a contact inquiry.
I am certainly disappointed in the method yourminis decided to go about jamming the crappiest possible ads into the widgets on HTMLCenter. The widgets will be removed tomorrow and I highly doubt I will use another widget from Yourminis/AOL in the near future.
Start page provider YourMinis has announced that this will be the last week for the start page. They have suggested that YourMinis users transition to another start page including myAOL, iGoogle or MyYahoo. They will apparently focus on creating widgets going forward.
The gallery will remain with detail pages on each widget but they have decided to remove "browsing, favoriting, and statistics functionality" from the public gallery. This means that you can pickup a widget but that’s about it.
YourMinis is a service of Goowy which was acquired by AOL back in February. I can only assume that eventually the widgets will be served via the AOL framework. The Goowy webtop has also been shutdown and users transferred to AOL Mail.
AOL has announced this morning that through their Platform-A online advertising brand, they will bring together buy.at and Goowy Media. buy.at is an affiliate network with partners including Blockbuster and Ticketmaster. Goowy Media provides a widget platform and also powers the yourminis Webtop. This new offering will take the buy.at network and Goowy’s technology to create a new set of monetizable widgets that publishers can place on their Web sites and blogs.
The first company to use the new affiliate widget setup is Ticketmaster. The widget is named "EventEngine" and will allow for customization of specific events.
AOL is announcing today that they are acquiring webtop Goowy. The deal also includes widget maker yourminis. Financial terms were not disclosed. I didn’t realize this but apparently AOL worked with Goowy to provide original widgets for myAOL.
I’ve said so many times already (ok one more coming) that widgets are 2008′s hottest area and AOL obviously agrees. The news that yourminis widget technology will be built into AOL’s Platform A ad network also makes sense. Last week at the panel I moderated, Heath Row from Double Click spoke about their Widget Ads product.
Alex Bard, CEO and co-founder of Goowy said, "The platform and services we’ve built are an obvious fit with AOL’s ad-supported Web strategy, and we look forward to expanding our widget offerings across the AOL network." One of the first interviews I conducted on CN was with Bard. It’s worth listening to as he provides input on the VC process and some of the learnings he found with starting Goowy.
If another company is looking to acquire a great webtop/widget provider, check out Schmedley – it’s a great build.
Ben Metcalfe sent over a link last week to his latest project called Bubbletop. Bubbletop is a start page from France Telecom/Orange and is similar to Pageflakes, Netvibes, yourminis and Schmedley. My first reaction after using this for a while was, "oh another start page, eh?" But what I have come to learn is that each startpage has it's own flavor and will appeal to a different type of user.
Bubbletop uses a friends system to share the content you find/use on Bubbletop. This is what makes Bubbletop unique. You can "friend" people on Bubbletop and then click the share button and after selecting your friends, they will get a notification of new content from you. What this means is that your friends must be using Bubbletop as well. Pretty groovy and innovative.
Another feature I like about Bubbletop is the ability to bring in my own widgets from other providers. In fact, I could take a widget from yourminis and bring it into Bubbletop. Ben notes, "you can bring widgets from other providers into Bubbletop – no need to build them twice!"
The Bubbletop Foundry is opening soon and will allow developers to collaborate on extending Bubbletop and creating new and interesting content for the start page.
On the business side, Mike notes, "This is an overly-crowded space (and now Google is now promoting their iGoogle product hard as well). But Orange has nearly 90 million mobile customers to try to push to their new online products."
Else, Bubbletop is another start page. I think the social features make it more interesting than 80% of the other start pages out there, but to make this feature really work, my friends need to use the app as well. I would suggest that Ben take a look at Schmedley for some design inspiration as Bubbletop looks more like a developer designed it than a designer.
Thanks for another great week, I sure do appreciate all the emails and comments about our posts and the tips and post ideas! Keep 'em coming! Here are some updates from our sponsors who help keep the rabbits spinning the wheels here! Seems we have a bit of widget news today.
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