Widget developers: Put your apps on Facebook

Desktop widget developers, take heart. Widgetbox's new online tool converts your registered widget into a Facebook application for all to use and love. We just thought you'd like to know.

OK, this is a stretch, but we know that CNET Download.com users like to post their work to Facebook too.

That's why, even though Widgetbox's new online tool to publish widgets to Facebook isn't strictly the stuff of downloads, we're bringing you this hands-on review.

Widgetbox's (blandly named) App Accelerator is a step-by-step guide and tool for creating Facebook applications from Widgetbox widgets. Yet it shrewdly connects the community developers of Widgetbox's widget marketplace (this could be you) with Facebook's burgeoning user community. Talk about viral marketing.

The conversion works by adapting Widgetbox's Flash and HTML/JavaScript code for Facebook compatibility. There's a lot of link-swapping involved, and much of App Accelerator's ease-of-use can be attributed to Widgetbox's assumption of several routing URLs.

Widgetbox has done its usability homework in creating a friendly, check-listed step-by-step guide that walks users through what might otherwise be a confusing process. Still, I ran into some problems using App Accelerator, including some URL pasting mistakes that rendered my new application useless and significantly delayed this review. This is something I hope Widgetbox and Facebook will both limit in the future with appropriate error sensing and alerts.

Since the proprietary service only converts Widgetbox widgets, I needed to begin by registering and building a widget. I used Widgetbox's Blidget tool (read Webware review) to create a widget of "my" blog (I used Webware.com, of course.)

Next I needed to register as a Facebook developer; easily done through Widgetbox's prominent link. After converting the blog into a widget, I was offered the opportunity to "promote" it on Facebook. Don't be fooled; this isn't App Accelerator's work. Rather, it crashed my Firefox browser, then posted an image of my blidget to my Facebook mini feed, as a video.

Converting the widget into a Facebook application takes some time to set up, but like any other helper application (like love-to-hate-it tax software), it's more lengthy than grueling. You can test the Facebook application before publishing, and edit it at any time.

When the new application is set up, Widgetbox closes the loop by linking your Facebook application to the widget itself. Any change to the widget also changes Facebook. Since my demo application is a blidget, new Webware.com posts will show on the Widgetbox blog, and trigger an update on the Facebook application.

In some ways it's a shame I chose to demo App Accelerator with a blidget. Most Facebook applications launch in a separate window when you click them, taking interaction off the user's profile page (the Facebook-developed Wall is a notable exception). It is therefore tragironic that my Webware blog, whose sole purpose is to make reading headlines instantaneous, never graces my Facebook profile page, and instead is stationed one click in.

According to Dean Moses, Widgetbox's CTO, this is the most requested feature among the company's 15,000-plus Facebook "developers" and 1.4 million widget subscribers. A fix is under way.

I also stumbled upon one more bug; the fact that a logo shows up only when you've added it to Widgetbox when you first create a widget. I purposely withheld adding an image to my blidget to test how quickly and how well editing the Facebook applications works through Widgetbox. I should be able to change the logo via Facebook...as soon as four other users adopt my application. A fix for that, too, is coming out soon.

If the glee of having created your own Facebook application without fretting the particulars (like your side nav URL) isn't incentive enough to try App Accelerator, Widgetbox has upped the ante. The DevShare program taps into your personal greed, ahem, business savvy, to split any profits you might acquire from associating your widget to ad content, 50-50.

Monetizing schemes aside, Widgetbox's Facebook conversion engine is a strong start, and a valuable free service for its community of widget developers.

Correction: This article originally misstated the number of Widgetbox Facebook developers.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.