SAN FRANCISCO -- Hoping to pave a new path to its popular website, Yahoo Inc. has acquired Konfabulator, a tiny software maker that provides a computer platform for monitoring the weather, stock prices, and a wealth of other customized information without opening a Web browser.
The deal, finalized late last week for an undisclosed price, gives Yahoo access to a toolbox of mini-applications -- known as ''widgets" -- that have built a cult following since Palo Alto-based Konfabulator first introduced them for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh in 2002.
Apple liked the concept so much that it includes a widgets dashboard in the Mac's operating system. With just three employees, Konfabulator designs its widget software to run on the ubiquitous Windows operating system as well.
The widgets are designed to make it easy for outsiders to develop and share new applications -- a concept that Yahoo wants to encourage as it experiments with new ways to make the wealth of information on its website more useful, said Toni Schneider, vice president of the company's developer network.
Online search engine leader Google Inc., one of Yahoo's biggest rivals, recently began encouraging third-party developers to plug in new applications for its mapping service, which already is being tweaked to track crime and apartment vacancies in some cities.
Konfabulator's widgets will be exposed to a much wider audience under its new ownership. Yahoo ended June with 181 million registered users.