Y! Mobile Widgets

My Space Widget The big news from CES today is that Yahoo has released a mobile widget API and is integrating widget support into Yahoo Go and the Yahoo Mobile Web Portal. You can visit mobile.yahoo.com/gallery for more information. The first widgets are from eBay, MySpace and MTV. Although the platform was “launched” at CES today you can’t actually use any Yahoo widgets on your phone, everything seems to be “coming soon”.

Widget support is a part of the new Yahoo Go 3.0 which will soon be available for 35 phones from RIM, Nokia and Sony Ericsson. The supported phone list is at mobile.yahoo.com/go/phones. If your phone is on the list you can try going to get.go.yahoo.com to download it with your mobile browser. Be patient though, as of 8PM Pacific Time, all I get using my Nokia N95, a supported phone, is “Want to see the new Yahoo! Go 3.0 Beta? So do we! We are working hard to get it ready for you today – even if it’s by the stroke of midnight. Please come back then to download it.”

Yahoo is actively encouraging 3rd party developers to create mobile widgets. There’s quite a bit of developer information at mobile.yahoo.com/developers including documentation, screen shots and sample code. Interestingly, Yahoo widgets do not use JavaScript or any scripting language at all. The widgets are written using an xForms based language called Blueprint that is similar enough to xhtml that web and especially mobile web developers should be able to crank out widgets without much effort. One reason development should be quick is that at this point Blueprint is a very small subset of xForms and widgets can’t actually do much beyond displaying text, images and web forms. In this first release, the code is hosted on the developer’s site, so at least server side code can be used to make widgets somewhat dynamic and interactive. Later releases will fully implement xForm’s MVC approach which should give widgets and snippets the ability to make data requests and update themselves in response to events much like JavaScript based widgets.

Sample SnippetDid I say “Snippet“? Yup, on the Yahoo mobile platform, a widget displays full screen whereas a snippet is smaller, the example (second image) shows a snippet as just a few lines of text. Snippets can be added to a user’s personal Yahoo homepage to display headlines or a title, for example, and can also launch widgets.

The supplied documentation is enough to get started writing widgets and snippets but it’s not possible to test them yet. Yahoo says they will provide a web based test interface soon. There is also an approval process that developers will have to go through before their widgets are included in Yahoo’s widget catalog.

Yahoo’s widget platform looks pretty exciting to me. The use of xForms is certainly cutting edge. Beyond the technology, what is significant is that Yahoo is giving independent developers a way to integrate their content and services into the world’s most popular mobile portal. Yahoo has promised a way for widget builders to monetize their creations, although the details are still being worked out. With Yahoo’s reach it should be possible to make a decent amount of money with a few popular widgets.