Sounds like the W3C is heading down the path towards a reinvention of past portal standards (JSR168, WSRP)... dare I say "Portal 2.0"?
W3C Proposes Widget 1.0 Standard
The proposal covers "small client-side applications for displaying and updating remote data, packaged in a way to allow a single download and installation on a client machine." The standard covers widgets that run on the desktop as well as in the browser.
The W3C says widgets include "clocks, stock tickers, news casters, games and weather forecasters. It also notes that widgets go by many names, including "gadgets" or "modules".
While I can't say I understand all the technical in the spec, what I did find interesting was that it includes "widget autodiscovery." This spec, if approved, would allow Web browser to recognize when a site has an associated widget available. It's sounds very similar to RSS autodiscovery.
Other related links: