Internet portal Yahoo Inc. said yesterday that it has acquired Pixoria Inc., a small software company that makes tools that allow computer users to check traffic or weather information via the Internet without having to open a browser window.
For Yahoo, it's a step toward a possible next version of Web use in which consumers have customized information streamed to their computers instead of having to use a browser to go find what they want.
"We think this is where the Web is headed in its next generation," said Toni Schneider, vice president of Yahoo Developer Networks. "For us, it's great -- we can reach beyond the browser, beyond what we can do in a one-size-fits-all Web site." Yahoo did not disclose terms of the deal.
Pixoria, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has three employees; all will become Yahoo employees under the acquisition. The company's product, first released in 2003, is a software engine that runs tiny software programs called "Konfabulator Widgets" that allow users to automatically "scrape" information, such as stock prices or sports scores, off a Web site. Apple built a similar set of tools into its latest operating system. The "widget" programs are tiny and relatively easy for users to customize; today there are more than 1,000 available and most were designed by programmers and enthusiasts. Newly available widgets at Pixoria's site let users monitor the mosquito levels in their Zip code or keep tabs on their eBay accounts.
In an announcement at Pixoria's site disclosing the Yahoo deal, founder Arlo Rose said that being part of Yahoo will give him and developers of widgets access to a broad range of tools. "We'll now have the ability to not only have access to feeds for their hundreds of properties, but we're in a position to help define how they work and what they are," he wrote.
Yahoo hasn't quite figured out how to make money off the widgets, Schneider said. Pixoria had been charging $20 for the software but Yahoo will give it away for free, and Pixoria has promised refunds to customers who bought the most recent version. The bulk of Yahoo's revenue comes from advertising that Web users have to look at as they open Web pages at the company's site; the attraction of widgets is that they let users get information while avoiding that process.
"That's something we're still figuring out," Schneider said. "We're convinced that there's going to be value there."