We did a ton of work on widgets in the WordPress 4.8 release. Prior to this release there hadn’t been any new widgets introduced for a very long time. Now there are media widgets for images, video, and audio. Additionally, the Text widget finally gets the TinyMCE visual editor just like the post editor has had forever. In 4.8.1 we introduced a dedicated Custom HTML widget for storing arbitrary markup, which the Text widget was formerly used for. Many of these widget changes incorporated ideas from XWP’s JS Widgets plugin, as prior to 4.8 widgets in core lacked any JS-driven functionality at all.
The widget improvements aim to mirror the development of blocks in Gutenberg. If there is a block for something, there should also be a widget for it.The more that block-like widgets are available today, the more users will see a consistency between post content and widget sidebars. After Gutenberg is merged into core, we’ll be working on migrating widgets over to use blocks instead. At that point we’ll be able to abandon many of the hoops we have to go through to make widgets JS-driven when they are fundamentally PHP beasts.