Widgets are proving their versatility to marketers as replacements for banner ads and as applications on social-networking sites such as Facebook, which can provide a viral venue for expanding a brand message.
Adblock Plus, a free Firefox browser extension that stops ads from popping up on a Web site, could become the TiVo of the Web. With only 2.5 million users, the software isn't on the radar of Google and other major Web sites, but some smaller sites are trying to prevent Firefox users from accessing their sites because of the perceived threat from Adblock Plus.
Developers are rolling out new Facebook applications at a rapid clip, with an estimated 2,000 applications attracting 100 or more users. One venture firm, Bay Partners, has established a $300 million fund to support companies developing applications for Facebook's community of 30 million users.
As part of the relaunch of its ESPN360.com video site, ESPN has teamed with Verizon Communications for its "King of Fandom" contest, which is open to Verizon broadband subscribers. The winner will receive a year of free Verizon broadband service, $25,000 and a one-year lease on a customized Ford F-250 truck.
Thanks to deals with The Associated Press and other news agencies, Google News will begin hosting stories on its site instead of linking to others'. The search company hopes to increase traffic and keep users on its on site longer.
Speculation that Google might get into phone business is growing. Speculators envision a phone that hosts advertisements, but no monthly fee, by as soon as next year. Google, which billed almost $11 billion last year in online ads, has made investments in mobile technology but refuses to comment the rumors.