Along with the plethora of new health-related web tools and communities popping up like daisies at the moment are a ton of associated health-related widgets -- those little "icons" anyone can post on their sites, which house small applications providing functionality and content. Widgets are neat. Widgets are cool. But are widgets just free advertising?Widgetboxlogo

I've been approached by a number of Health 2.0 companies asking about my level of interest in posting their widgets. Did you know, for example, that you can post a constantly updated feed for Discovery Health News right on your own blog just by cutting and pasting this widget? Or add MedicineNet Diabetes News daily to your site with this widget? Or post a daily calorie counter by grabbing this one?

Widgets were supposedly created "to help you save time by bringing your favorite content and services right to your site." But most widgets actually function like fancy banner ads, meaning they're just attractive boxes that get users to click over to another website, driving traffic to numerous commercial sites. For these types of widgets, shouldn't we be getting paid?

I noticed that not many diabetes bloggers are using widgets other than "our" stuff: Unite for Diabetes, TuDiabetes, DiabetesTalkFest, Diabetes Made Visible, and also dLife -- which of course is commercial, but also a community that's all diabetes, all the time. But the attack of the advertising widgets is underway. It's good to know that a number of companies are up-front about the fact that their "widgets" are actually ads.

Some feedback from the discussion at leading IT blog TechCrunch:

* "The question will be how many widgets can a site handle before:

a. they become overwhelming to the site visitor

b. they become a burden to the site in terms of load times"

* "I love me my widgets! There is still a crave out there for quality widgets that add value to blogs and sites alike."

* "Advertising widgets is a great idea in my opinion. Plain text ads are already focused and less spammy than banners used to be but widgets can actually serve a purpose for the users. I would prefer a widget over a regular ad any day."

* "I think that the age of advertising is behind us. Widgets are about providing useful content to the blog reader. My job board widgets provide an interesting list of jobs to the blog reader, in a given profession. He can click on a job, but it does not take him away from the site, he sees the job on the site. He can post his resume, or post a job, right there, on the site. I am not adverting his attention from the site, I am proving relevant content and functionality."

All I know is that any commercial company that wants to put up a box on a blog that leads readers to its site is essentially asking to advertise. So let's call a spade a spade.

Meanwhile, over at Widgetbox, "the world's largest widget marketplace," anybody can do a homemade job. You can create all sorts of neat widgets for yourself or your blog.

You can show your blog's ranking, like this:

Wikio - Top of the Blogs - Health

Or you can even make a widget that promotes your own posts, like this:

So I finally figured out how Manny at TuDiabetes made those neat member badges, and how David & Elizabeth at Diabetes Daily put together that very cool feed for the D-blog headlines. Clever Widgeters!

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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.