As of the early 2000s the word widget has been thrown around for any thing that didn’t have a name and was a tech based tangible object. I remember sitting in class at college and my professor would say when “company x produced the widget priced at $100…” I remember saying to myself, “what the f*** is a widget?” Well now it is so commonly used among the tech savvy that you can even get widget t-shirt.
So as the word widget was going through puberty a plugin popped out the womb like a hellion. The mommy? WordPress. It seems the beauty behind WordPress, as well as other web based solutions, is the ability to easily utilize both plugins and widgets. That is what makes them so appealing to the masses, especially people that don’t have the technical know-how to build them. This leads me to the question I was wondering the other day, “what is the difference between a plugin and a widget?”
The definition of a widget varies depending on the source. According to Wikipedia, a widget is “a placeholder for a manufactured device” or a “reusable element of a graphical user interface that displays an information arrangement and provides standardized data manipulation.” That second definition is really confusing and technical. Wikipedia actually explains a Web Widget as “a small application that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.” That definition is a little bit more relevant to how most people think of a widget.
Now lets take a look at how a few sources define a plugin. PC Magazine defines a plugin as “software that is installed into an existing application in order to enhance its capability.” Wikipedia believes that a plug-in is “a piece of software which enhances another software application and usually cannot be run independently”. Both of these definitions are rather vague but to the point.
So what is the difference then between a plugin and a widget? A widget is an APPLICATION that needs to be executed within a web page. A plugin is a SOFTWARE script that gets installed into an existing application. So it is safe to draw the conclusion that a widget is a plugin. Speaking in terms of WordPress blogs, a widget is dragged and dropped in the sidebar of your blog. A plugin is downloaded to enhance and alter the performance of your blog.
If you think I am mistaken or would like to add more clarification please feel free to do so in the comments.