Sprout: Now A Viral Distribution Platform for Web Services

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Sprout – the impressive browser-based tool that debuted at DEMO in January and suddenly made it feasible for non-developers to create rich Flash-based widgets – has got even better with the release of v1.5.

One of the most promising things about Sprout was that it integrated third-party services. At launch, publishers could add to their widgets, among other components, polls from PollDaddy and maps from Yahoo. Since there are countless other web services that could potentially widgetize themselves, Sprout has decided to release an SDK that effectively turns the tool into a platform.

As if to demonstrate the SDK’s possibilities, the company is debuting support for Twitter, Seesmic, and Google forms (which allow you to collect information from users in a Google spreadsheet). Expect others to follow on their own volition.

In addition to the SDK, Sprout is adding some simple animation effects for when users interact with the various parts of a widget. You can now, for example set shapes to bevel or blur when someone clicks or hovers over them. Simple undo functionality has also been added, although I’m still waiting for proper layers.

Sprout is going from strength to strength, and as word about its capabilities spreads further, we can expect it to become quite the acquisition bait. This is a marketer’s dream tool in an era of social media/advertising, and Sprout shouldn’t have any trouble monetizing its service given that widgets are effectively advertisements for many publishers. Now with the SDK, Sprout should also attract the attention of many startups, too.

The company says that 30% of its widgets have been posted to MySpace, 20% to Facebook, 25% to other social media sites, and 25% to general websites. The largest segment creating Sprout widgets are labels and artists, followed by religious and non-profit organizations, venues, and events. See a sample widget from Universal Music (which unfortunately I can’t embed because it auto-plays music).

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