Yahoo adds Flash to widget platform

The lightweight applications used to access content have been given extended HTML support for developers as well as Flash capability

Yahoo is releasing an upgrade to its Yahoo Widgets platform that accommodates Adobe's Flash multimedia display technology.

Widgets are lightweight applications that provide desktop access to various types of content, such as news feeds or reminders. Featured in the upgrade is a new version of the Yahoo Widget Engine, which is a runtime environment that allows the widgets to run on a desktop, and an updated Yahoo Widget Gallery, offering more than 4,000 widgets, Yahoo said.

Yahoo Widget Engine 4.5, accessible on Yahoo's widget download page, adds capabilities for developers to write widgets based on Flash; also, HTML support has been extended, said Scott Derringer, director of product management at Yahoo. Specifically, Flex and ActionScript are supported for writing Flash-based applications.

"What we're seeing is authors are wanting to write movies and video, and that's a new capability that can now add to desktop widgets," Derringer said. A widget can be built that runs assets that already existed in Flash.

"Video can now be run inside of a widget," said Derringer. Full HTML support, meanwhile, provides capabilities like flow layout and more standard control.

While widgets are primarily consumer-focused, there could be business uses, such as running training videos, he said. SAP, for its part, has built enterprise widgets and a plug-in architecture, called SAP Widget Foundation, which could access information like sales data, said Jonathan Strauss, Yahoo senior product manager. SAP's technology extends the Yahoo Widget engine.

"Using the SAP plug-in, you can query your SAP system to put those sales numbers into your desktop widget," Strauss said. An SAP representative said SAP's platform can use the Yahoo engine but does not rely on it exclusively; other engines, such as Google's, also can be used.

Version 4.5 of the Yahoo engine offers an enhanced security model to give users a better understanding of what a widget does. Also new is a reworked document object model so it is compliant with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards. "The benefit there is really familiarity form the developer's point of view," said Strauss.

The new Yahoo Widget Gallery has been revamped to make it easier for consumers to find widgets they want. Top-rated and heavily downloaded widgets are highlighted. A new categorization is featured based on tags.

Other improvements in the gallery include more search functionality and a new ratings and reviews system for users.

"We find people are quite passionate," about the widgets, said Strauss.

Yahoo monetizes the widgets through advertising. Yahoo acquired the widget technology when it bought Pixoria and its Konfabulator technology two years ago.

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