Widgets, WordPress.com, and Limits

There’s an enthustiastic article in USA Today about widgets. It concludes with a quote from Adam Rifkin: “There’s no limit to what widgets can do.” Joe Wickert, in linking to the article, states that “widgets are the future.”

The above quotes do not seem to bode well for WordPress.com. Blogs hosted there (such as this one) cannot include javascript and the like; such code is stripped out. Hence the support forums frequently see the lament: My code has gone from my widget.

There are a few specific widgets to which WordPress.com allows access. For example, I’ve embedded media from Youtube, Sonific, and other services on this blog. I specify the service and the URI (e.g., Youtube and the URI of the video), and WordPress.com fills in the details.

The more intense “widget-mania” becomes, the less acceptable the restriction on widgets at WordPress.com will seem. It’ll be interesting to see how Automattic, the people running WordPress.com, handle this. Options include:

  • Stay on the current course. Widget-mania may be a passing fad. There may be enough bloggers not afflicted by it. More and more services may provide javascript-free versions of their widgets.
  • Make a wide variety of widgets available. Partnering with a trusted “widget broker might be the best way to do this.
  • Allow javascript and the like. I consider this unlikely.

Some notes on terms, reserved for this point to avoid complicating the above:

4 thoughts on “Widgets, WordPress.com, and Limits”

  1. Do you think the growth of WP.com thus far has been hindered by our decisions in that regard? What’s changing in the future that alters the landscape? Is this article an inflection point, or lagging on a trend from a year+ ago?

  2. Matt,
    Thanks for stopping by. My answer to your first question is that I don’t think that the impressive growth of wp.com has been held back significantly by the restriction on javascript, and hence on widgets.
    As to the future… while the article may overstate the widget case, I think that we are somewhere near an inflection point. While in the past widgets were seen as a cool extra, we are getting to the point at which people assume that they can widgetize blogs and other web sites, and feel let down when they can’t. I should admit that I don’t have firm data to back that up.
    That said, I think it would be a good idea for you to be in talks with a reliable “widget broker.”

  3. It’s a tricky one.

    There’s a school of though that says that it isn’t dangerous at all to allow javascripts (and evidence that it is) but I’m not sure as to why wp.com can’t afford to maintain and operate a whitelist of sorts (that’s what myspace uses right)?

    Although there are a whole heap of reasons why they wouldn’t… such as ‘quality’ and ‘tone’ (there are many terrible widgets out there) and they’re in a great position to say ‘you want your widget in here, you pay us $x (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

    Me, I’d love to allow javascript widgets through edublogs… but am too scared / don’t have the skills or time to develop whitelists… however, we have gotten round it to a degree through developing in partnership with widgetbox a widget that allows people to use up to 9 widgetbox widgets – which pretty much cover everything you’d want.

    And Matt, widgets are last year for you 🙂

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