Box.net released a killer new widget today. I can't for some reason copy the code using firefox on my Mac, but I sent them an email to see what they have to say.
So why is this widget so cool? Well, it’s a music player. It’s a photo sharing tool. It’s a way to distribute large files. In other words, it’s just an incredibly useful tool with numerous applications.
Beyond its utility, there are a couple of other things to note.
I have not seen a widget that does a better job of enabling new sign-ups (and logins) through the body of the widget. To date, services that require registration have had a real hard time making effective use of widgets. Opening up a new browser window and forcing someone to join or sign in is just so ….. clunky. It sort of defeats the whole point of being a distributed service.
Box.net does an extremely elegant job of making new sign ups fast, easy, and painless – all within the body of the widget. Anybody who has been grappling with how to reconcile forced registrations with widgets should definitely take a few minutes to try out Box.net’s solution. You might learn something – I know that I did.
So what are the implications of this? Let’s say that I’m reading a blog and there’s a music track that I like being shared via a Box.net widget. Without ever leaving the blog, I can grab the music track, join Box.net, and set up my own Box.net widget pre-loaded with that music track. And of course, it doesn’t have to be a music track. It could be a photo, a presentation, a whitepaper. It’s easy to imagine Box.net enabling a rapid spread of files around the Web.
The other thing that I love about this widget is how it fits into Box.net’s business model. Box.net makes money by charging folks for file storage. They give you up to 1GB of file storage for free, and up to 5GB for $4.99 per month. What the widget does is to sign up people for the free trial version of the service, all within the user experience of the widget publisher site.
By providing a one click “Share in my Box” functionality, Box.net is effectively leveraging the content of the widget publisher to propagate its widgets - and more importantly, sell its file storage service. The beauty is that folks don’t even know they’re signing up for a free trial of a file storage service – they are just grabbing a piece of media that they like for their blog. It’s brilliant. From a business model perspective, it’s far more intuitive than say, YouTube’s widget strategy.
So while the debate continues about whether widgets can ever make money, Box.net has quietly built a widget that will drive qualified lead after qualified lead to their revenue engine. c