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Startup PostApp Inc. is planning to launch in the fall an online marketplace for widgets, those tiny applications that can be embedded on blogs and other Web pages to provide services ranging from stock tickers and weather updates to EBay auction trackers.
Available in private beta today, Widgetbox is an attempt to ride the popularity of blogs, social networks, and personal homepages, which are fertile ground for the placement of widgets.
"There's going to be value in aggregating widgets in one place and making it easy for people to integrate them," Ed Anuff, chief executive of PostApp, said Friday. "We think there's a lot of opportunity in terms of different business models associated with the widgets themselves."
Because widgets, which are also called gadgets or modules, are often tied to a Web service, it's possible that revenue can be extracted from the use of the applications, Anuff said. For example, widgets could carry advertising, or the developer could charge for its use. In those cases, PostApp could be paid for tracking payments or ad clicks. If someone could buy something through a widget, than payments could be conducted through online payment services, such as PayPal.
The potential of making money has attracted investors. PostApp, based in San Francisco, announced Friday that it has received $1.5 million in its first round of funding from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Mitchell Kertzman, a partner of the venture capital firm, is a member of the PostApp board.
For money to flow, however, PostApp needs developers willing to register their widgets on the site. To attract code writers, PostApp offers and distributes widgets at no charge. The company won't make money unless the developer wants to implement a revenue model.
"That's what makes us a marketplace," Anuff said. "We make it possible for people to specify, monitor and track usage of widgets that have commercial terms."
In looking for developers, PostApp has turned to large Internet companies offering technology that allows developers to embed their services into Web pages. Those companies include EBay Inc., Amazon.com, and Google Inc., which have found 10s of thousands of developers willing to make use of their application programming interfaces.
While PostApp says it has been in contact with all three Internet giants, the company is willing to only talk about EBay, which worked with PostApp in developing an auction-monitoring widget that could be used in blogs hosted by Six Apart Ltd.
Working directly with blog or social-networking services makes it easier for PostApp to provide a simple, one-click mechanism for embedding widgets in pages hosted by those services, Anuff said. Companies offering open APIs are also easily accessible. In other scenarios, PostApp would provide the snippet of code to add to a Web page to run the widget.
Companies like PostApp are the result of the evolution of the Web into a global network of services that can be added to any site. Web pages that contain multiple services floating on the Web are called mashups.
The term Web 2.0 often refers to the Internet's movement from a network of stand-alone Web sites to one where there's constant interaction through a merging of services.
"We look at the growth in Web services adoption as a good indicator of our opportunity, if we can make it simple enough to share those applications," Anuff said.
PostApp plans to make the test version of Widgetbox publicly available by the end of July. The site is set to launch out of beta in September.