I’ve been playing with TypePad’s new widgets and, frankly, am not impressed.
To be fair, it’s great that Six Apart is starting to see TypePad as an extensible platform upon which you can add applications (widgets). Their move reminds me of Salesforce.com’s AppExchange project to enable developers to extend their CRM platform. It also reminds me of Microsoft’s efforts to build a community of several million developers using its Windows and .NET platforms, expecting some small percentage of them to create killer apps — think Lotus, Skype, and Netscape Navigator — that drive platform sales.
True, there are some TypePad widgets that look interesting such as Pandora’s personal radio station and FeedBurner. But these will not be enough to make the Widget program popular among bloggers or widget developers.
My secondary beef is that this problem has been well known for a long time. For instance, this post from 2004 outlines a number of TypePad shortcomings. It’s a little-known fact that Six Apart has very few actual developers; perhaps this is why the company is so slow to roll out new improvements.
The actual user experience for adding widgets to a blog is pretty slick. But in my opinion, it is the wrong approach, because it requires Six Apart to cut partnership deals with widget providers, and then to have those providers actually implement the API. This takes time. It would have been far better if Six Apart had designed the widgets to work without requiring partnership deals. For instance, provide a wizard that walks someone through the process of adding Google Ads to a blog. This doesn’t require a partnership with Google. It simply requires some pages that prompt the user to enter their AdSense ID, their display preferences, etc. Designed this way, each TypePad widget would have required days of development, rather than weeks of partnership negotiations, and TypePad would have had the ideal collection of “killer apps” for its platform.