How do you help encourage the growth of a widgets or gadgets ecosystem? Being big is a good, natural start. It has helped people flock to develop Facebook applications or Yahoo Widgets or Google Gadgets, just for exposure to the traffic at these places. But Google wants to encourage with more than traffic. Now it’s offering cold hard cash.
"We’ve seen lots of people develop great applications for gadgets that we wouldn’t have thought of or developed ourselves," said Sep Kamvar, who leads personalization engineering at Google. "We wanted to incent developers, and one of the things we had been thinking about was to create an ecosystem so people would invest in their gadgets because it was profitable."
Explaining further, Kamvar said:
"AdSense allowed lots of people to quit their jobs and make money from it. We want to make the same economic ecosystem for gadget developers. Our main goal here is to bootstrap an ecosystem where lots of gadget developers can spend time doing what they love, doing great things with their gadgets and make money from them."
Grants of $5,000 are the first level of support available to developers. Those that have built gadgets listed in the Google Gadget directory which get at least 250,000 weekly pageviews are eligible to apply. The process involves a one-page proposal explaining how they would use the grant to improve their gadget.
Those who successfully earn the first level of support can then go on to the higher level of funding — $100,000 in seed investment. This is designed for the gadget developer with a business plan on how a gadget can actually earn money. The $100,000 investment from Google is meant to help kickstart the development. As explained, it is only available to those developers that have first proven their worth by winning an initial grant.
Though the larger grant is billed as an investment, Google said the intent was to structure the funding in a way to encourage product development, rather than to be a way for Google itself to earn money off investing in potentially lucrative gadgets.
"The payoff for us is in more pageviews and users. By getting more users, we get more searches," said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.