What's the Difference Between a Widget and a Gadget?

What everyone's talking about when they talk tech to you

Widget Gadget
This Donkey Kong game is a widget because it can be used on almost any website. (Image of Widgetbox).

If you don't know the difference between widgets and gadgets, you're not alone. It can be difficult to keep up with the terms for emerging technology. From portals to blogs to widgets to mashups to Web 2.0, the Internet has a knack for lighting these words on fire. And the worst part is that sometimes the word lacks any true definition that everyone can agree on.

For those just now trying to get a grasp on things, it can make your head spin. So, if you've come across some 'gadgets,' and you are wondering just what the difference is between them and 'widgets,' you are far from the only one.

Twenty years ago, explaining the difference between a widget and a gadget would be the stuff of comedy. Nowadays, it is a serious discussion.

Distinguishing Between Widget and a Gadget

The easiest way to explain it is that a gadget is any widget that is not a widget. Sound confusing? Just remember that a widget is a piece of reusable code that you can plug into virtually any website.

A gadget, however, acts just like a widget and often fulfills the same purpose, but it is proprietary. It only works on a certain website or a specific set of websites, for instance. It can also be a widget that is a technology device working in conjunction with an application.

Here are two examples:

  1. Gadgets can look and act like widgets, but they only work on certain devices. For instance, the Raymio device is a wrist-worn band that helps you stay safe in the sun. It's a wearable (a device that's worn) that also uses an app to give you information. 
  2. A widget, on the other hand, works on any web page that lets you add an HTML block of code. You can put that code on your blog, or your personalized start page or your personal website.

The bottom line is that if it's a piece of reusable code that you use to program something on the Web, it's a widget. Otherwise, it's a gadget. Don't stress! You've got this now.