Fast Talk: Gadget Freak

Microsoft’s Sanaz Ahari is pioneering a new way to program on the Web.

Sanaz Ahari

Lead Program Manager, Microsoft Corp.
Redmond, Washington

Ahari, who’ll turn 25 this month, is widely credited with helping pioneer a new way of programming the Web. She’s currently working on the Live Search team, preparing to launch her fourth new product since she arrived at Microsoft from college. From Seattle’s Archie McPhee store, she explains just what a “gadget” is and how it’s going to change the way you think about the Web.


“Gadgets are making the entire Web a canvas. Gadgets (or widgets, as they’re also known) are small programs that can reside online or on the desktop and perform a simple, single task, such as keeping track of your recipes. They usually extend an existing product or service, and they’re primarily for the display of personalized information.

I can see a whole new level of advertising through gadgets. An early example was when Google had that Da Vinci Code gadget–a replica of the ‘cryptex,’ the cylindrical decoder device from the book and movie. You could take the puzzle and put it on your Web page for your friends to discover. That was great. Create something cool, and people will distribute your brand for you. And content will become the new forum for advertising.

Users will tell you if you’re doing it right. When I launched Microsoft’s, a gadget-powered home page, we released a weather gadget with only Fahrenheit capability. That was really bad of me as a Canadian–but after people complained, we had Celsius up there almost immediately. I was so delighted to really connect with customers and show that Microsoft is not a big, bad, evil thing.

Now all these startups are creating widgets. It’s kind of exciting but a little out of control. Everyone has their own standards, and they aren’t as portable as they should be. Users should be in control of data and be able to put widgets on any Web site they want. They also need an effective way to find the best ones for them. I don’t worry about progress, though. This is still in its infancy.”