Hallmark Cards released a new web slice for Internet Explorer 8 to the IE Add-ons Gallery last week that will make it extremely simple to remember the birthdays, anniversaries and other raisons de célèbre in your life. This slick little slice integrates with your Facebook friends list and provides you with a list of the next ten special events coming up. From the web slice, you can write on your friend’s Facebook wall, send them a Hallmark E-Card or even order them a “print-on-demand” card that you can design and that Hallmark will print and mail for you.
From the technological perspective, web slices are not difficult to develop. They are built just like any other web application, but they are tagged in a web page by a specific set of HTML that tells IE8 that this content is “sliceable.” In this case, the web slice is obviously integrated with the Facebook API, but another interesting feature is that the slice will also call out major holidays and integrate them into the list. This is provided by a secondary service, showing you how you can build really useful mash-up style applications leveraging multiple background services. Rather than dive into the details of how to develop add-ons for IE8, I’ll refer you instead to my colleague, Jon Box’s, blog. Jon has written several extremely useful posts over the past twelve months showing how to not only build web slices, but accelerators and visual search providers as well.
From a business and marketing standpoint, IE add-ons make all the sense in the world. I mean, the Hallmark web slice is a great example of providing not only a cool and useful application for customers, but it also lives in the link bar inside the browser, allowing their customers to check on their special events at any time, regardless of the web site they are currently on. It provides a very non-obtrusive way to provide your company’s specific products and services to customers while maintaining brand ubiquity in a piece of software in which users spend the good majority of their time each day: The web browser.
The best way to get the web slice is to visit the IE Add-ons Gallery. Since you need to connect the slice with Facebook, there is a two-step installation process, but it’s pretty easy and intuitive. I’ve been using it since it was released last week and I find myself checking it every day. See what you think.