The Widgetized Self

I keep hearing that the future of the Web (“Web 3″ as some are calling it) is going to be like Second Life. We’ll all be hanging out in rich visual spaces decking ourselves out in fabulous fantasywear while making lots of money with remote colleagues. And who’s to say that’s not going to happen.

But that’s not what I think will happen. I think that we are going to move further and further away from going to websites toward using personal portals decked out with zillions of dazzling widgets that bring the web to us.

The extent to which we are increasingly spreading ourselves out over more and more online sites is just not sustainable in the long haul. It takes too much time. We have to remember too many logins (a problem that things like OpenID and ClaimID try to address). We have to recreate content in too many places (Virb goes some way toward handling this by allowing the import of flickr feeds, youtube videos and forthcoming rss importing). Social networking sites are proliferating at an absurd rate, as though there’s a limitless populace of people eager to build profiles for sport, or huge tribes of nomadic social groups perenially on the prowl for a new space to colonize (too bad for the sites in which they’ve lost interest). Fan groups are becoming increasingly distributed. There are still many fan communities at a URL on the internet with their own ways of doing things just like I wrote about in Tune In, Log On. But my sense is that more and more, clusters of fans are spreading themselves out through multiple sites. They meet again and again in fan sites, p2p trading sites, social networking sites, blogs, and many other online places. Your online community is the collective you bump into in multiple online locations (for instance: I am thrilled to find an old The Fine Arts Showcase video on YouTube, and then realize that it was uploaded by someone I know from Its A Trap, who is a friend on, and with whom I’ve emailed several times. That’s one example, you’ve probably got your own.)

What I need, and what I think everyone else needs too (even if they want to hang out in Second Life a lot) is my own portal that I can just set up with a collection of widgets that bring all the sites I care about to me. Start pages on steroids. In my dream portal I can read and write to all the sites I want without having to leave my page. I can leave comments on blog posts, post to an online discussion on a forum and do everything else I want to do — and make it available to others — from my own little spot. Widgets gone wild.

My vision of radical me-iffication through widgetization got a boost when I heard of this: Media Master is letting people upload their digital music libraries and display and stream it through widgets. People can publish streaming playlists or (I think) make their collection available for shuffling. It generates a spiffy and interactive widget displaying your record covers. If they then go to a social network approach to turning people on to new music based on what’s in their libraries and make that happen through widgets on your own site instead of profiles on a branded site, it would be a very interesting step. Whether this particular site will work out or not, I don’t know, but the concept is golden and I am betting it is one of many services to come that depends on users exporting their information from the branded space into their space of choice rather than spending time in yet another web site.

Update: Not widgets, but Tech Crunch draws attention to Loopster, a social network aggregator. TechCrunch writes:

Sites like Loopster are a sign of a mini revolution happening with the social web, where instead of managing and linking documents, we are managing and linking personal identities. Traditional search engines like Yahoo and Google are very poor at discovering and managing this information since social relationships aren’t always hyperlinked.

Comments (4) to “The Widgetized Self”

  1. I completely agree with your vision of the future. One of the goals of MediaMaster is to make it _really_ easy keep your friends up to date on what you’re listening to. Its the best way to find new music!

    We’re heading in the very direction you sugggest. Stay tuned…

  2. nancy – i see your points but don’t they sound a little too me! me! me! ?

    one of the reasons i am such a big fan of feevy is because it gives more space to other voices and less space for my own voice on my blog. what would happen if, say, our blogs became less portals of ourselves and more portals of our friends?

    i understand the recent move towards widgets: flickr broadcasts our pics, lastfm our songs, upcoming our talks, twitter our every narcissistic move. i understand this. but i’m not sure if i agree with it. seems to me that we are living in times when perhaps we need to focus less on ourselves and more on others – other people, other perspectives, other views.

  3. David — “what would happen if, say, our blogs became less portals of ourselves and more portals of our friends” — that’s what I want widgets to do — and in that sense Feevy fits right into what I’m talking about. When you go to, you ought to see the things I want to see as well as the things I want you to see about me. It shouldn’t just be about displaying me to an audience, it should be about allowing me to engage with my communities and affiliations in a way that is (at least to some degree) visible to an audience, so that they see my communities as well as me if they drop by my portal. What I want in bringing the internet to me is to be able to focus on others without having to chase them all over the internet, and to be able to show other people who and what gets my attention when they visit my portal.

    Imagine if you could use feevy not just to read the first line, but to expand the post and read the comments and respond to them WITHOUT clicking through to the blog. I think people will still leave their portals to go to “destination sites” and to tour the net, but I think we need tools to make our own homes on the net more social rather than using proprietary sites as homes for our social networks and affiliations.

    BTW, the reason I moved Feevy off the front page was that it was slowing already-slow load times for the page a lot.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve come across it yet or not, but Pageflakes is kindred example (like Virb) of what a widgetized personal portal might look like (from the music “consumer’s” point of view). Of course, it’s all about the RSS. Kinda the opposite view of Virb or Reverbnation, actually…while Virb is all about organizing media to be exported, Pageflakes represents a customizable page for importing things – bookmarks turned into widgets.