The Conduit Open Initiative allows companies to create the toolbar as a promotional tool and people to customize the widget with add-ons. Using the toolbar, companies can push promotions to the desktop or lead consumers to their Web site through a link to access music, sports, news, games and more.
The toolbar is free to companies and their customers. About 60 million toolbars have been distributed to individuals since Conduit launched in 2005. Travelocity, Universal Music, Major League Baseball (MLB) and some of the National Hockey League (NHL) teams are among the 200,000 companies distributing the toolbar to customers and fans.
The causal video game company iWin, which has been using the toolbar for about 10 months, changes the message daily to promote new games and send messages about games that have gone on sale.
For iWin, daily revenue from search has increased about 50% and product revenue about 150% since the company began using the tool, according to Terrie Ijams, game release manager and merchandising specialist at iWin, San Francisco. She attributes between 3% and 5% of the company's overall sales to the computer desktop toolbar.
Despite the uptick in sales, Ijams would like to make a few aesthetic changes. "We'd like to change the look of the menus on the toolbar to list the whole month of games," she says.
Ijams says iWin offers two toolbars, but will likely add a third soon. iWin creates the toolbar and distributes it to customers who install it. Ijams sends the information on product alerts and product discounts. Similar to a widget, she can change the promotion at any time and have it appear on the users' desktops.
The alert feature allows publishers to stay connected. For example, during Barack Obama's inauguration, Fox News sent a message via its toolbar that read "click here" to watch it live. Companies have set up different toolbars to target a variety of consumers. MLB has 60 toolbars, one for each team in both English and Spanish. The toolbars are used similar to Twitter, a real-time promotions tool, to sell the 50 remaining Red Sox game seats at a moment's notice.
Analytics built into the back end of the application collects aggregated data, such as time and location. It lets companies monitor when consumers click a button or a link, according to Conduit President Adam Boyden.
Conduit generates revenue through a deal with Google that puts the company's search tool in the toolbar. "We generate revenue through search, just as Google does," Boyden says. "We are a profitable company, and growing quickly. Any function companies offer online can be added to the toolbar."