Yahoo Inc. on Monday launched a new version of its widget engine, the portal's platform for running mini desktop applications built by Yahoo or third-party developers.
Along with the release of Yahoo Widget Engine 3.0, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company also unveiled nine new applications that run on the platform, which is available in a Windows and Mac version. The engine is offered at no charge on the company's Web site.
A widget is a small application that runs on the desktop without the use of a browser. The software often draws content from a Web service. Yahoo, for example, offers widgets that are tied to its search, photo and mapping services.
Widgets are useful to portals because they can draw users to their services directly from the desktop, without first having to launch a browser. By providing a more direct route, portals are trying to increase the use of their services, which are tied to online advertising. Yahoo rival search engine Google Inc. also offers widgets.
The technology behind Yahoo Widget Engine stems from the portal's acquisition in July of Pixoria, which offered the Konfabulator widgets service. Since the acquisition, Yahoo has distributed more than 1.5 million copies of the Konfabulator platform, and users have downloaded more than 10 million widgets, according to the company.
The nine new widgets available on Yahoo include one that accesses the portal's mapping service to search for addresses, and drag and scroll road maps, a picture frame for displaying photos from Yahoo's photo sharing services, an application for searching the Web and a variety of Yahoo services, and an alert for new messages in Yahoo Web mail.
Additionally, more than 2,000 widgets created by third-party developers are available through Yahoo.