"I thought, 'This can't be right,'" she said. "I was extremely surprised, even as somebody who tracks the web. We had no way of anticipating until we took a worldwide view of it."
Reach 21% of web crowd
Widgets reached about 21% of the worldwide internet audience in April, ComScore found. About 40% of widget use, or 81 million of those people, came from North America. Slide had the largest reach, followed by RockYou, Picturetrail and Photobucket.
Not surprisingly, the 18-to-24-year-old demo dominated all types of widgets in their use of the technology, as social networking drives much of the growth in the space. While males indexed slightly higher than females on their use of music-related widgets, females were bigger consumers of photo-sharing-based widgets.
ComScore defines widgets as shockwave data files embedded into a site's HTML code. They're essentially little boxes that can deliver contextually aware content, connect users and offer transactional capabilities. Under the ComScore definition, desktop widgets and YouTube files are not considered web-based widgets.
How measurement works
ComScore essentially measures the data transmissions between a server and a user's web page where the widget is placed. For example, if a user places a Slide widget on his or her MySpace page, some of the content is served up via MySpace but other content is served from Slide.com. ComScore is measuring the data moving between Slide.com and the widget user's page.
Ms. Boland Abraham said this is "only the first crack" at measuring widgets and that ComScore will evolve as the marketplace does. And that market is expected to grow: Facebook's announcement last week that it would open up its platform to developers who might create applications -- or widgets -- was an endorsement of the technology, as was Fox Interactive Media's recent acquisition of Photobucket, which produces photo-related widgets.
For the creators of widgets, having third-party measurement of their reach will help legitimize the reach they've long contended they've had. It may also help them get on the buy as marketers and agencies use the third-party data from companies like ComScore and Nielsen Net/Ratings in their planning processes.
"The reach that widgets have is gong to surprise a lot of people," said Max Levchin, founder and CEO of Slide. "What advertisers are ultimately interested in is what are people looking at, not what page ... and our index showed we have 60% more 18- to 24-year-olds than average internet property."