Is Ajax Our Future?

A lot of buzz is being generated by Adaptive Path, the company that invented the acronym Ajax to describe what could become the key technology that allows web-based software to overtake traditional desktop software in the long run. The implications for companies like Microsoft could be huge if the tremendous interest in this technology continues.

Figure 1: The traditional model for web applications (left) compared to the Ajax model (right).

As you can see in this diagram an Ajax engine acts as middleware (has anyone told IBM about this?) allowing you to speed up the time it takes to display images and perform other tasks via a web browser. What is really holding up the adoption of 100% web-based software is that the time to display images on your computer and perform other tasks over the web is longer than we are used to. The Ajax model is not brand new but the acronym is and the way most web programmers think will have to change to adapt to this concept.

Figure 2: The synchronous interaction pattern of a traditional web application (top) compared with the asynchronous pattern of an Ajax application (bottom).

You can see that by eliminating the need to go to the server on every request, you are able to significantly speed up the user experience and response to user input. The use of a single acronym AJAX in fact has the ability to change the way we think about programming.

It gives developers something to rally around. A new way of looking at programming online. A n ew way of providing web services.

So you may be thinking, why should I care about some arcane acronym that stands for
“Asynchronous JavaScript+CSS+DOM+XMLHttpRequest.” The reason is because this is the technology that Google is using to develop some really interesting applications.

I spent 10 minutes today fascinated by Google Maps. It is the best application I have ever seen on the web because of the amazing graphics and the response time. Don’t get me wrong. This is not as fast as a desktop application but it is still faster than other web apps I have used.

You may be thinking that Flash can do much of what AJAX can and you are right. There will be times that one may be better suited to a job at hand than another. A technology called Flickr uses both. Here is a site that uses Ajax and it is amazingly quick. You would swear it was a desktop application.

In my opinion the birth of this new acronym may give programmers something to rally around and users will love the amazing graphics that Ajax based programs will provide. I can’t see a down-side to enabling web based applications that are faster, more responsive and attractive. I just wonder when the Ajax versions of Word and Excel are coming.

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I had this very same epiphany last week. I started asking the supposed "learned" about this Ajax thing, no one knew what I was talking about. The second I saw google maps - my jaw dropped.

http post/request seems like Fred Flinstones foot powered car next to the tripped out H2 that is xmlhttp.

It is without a doubt the future of the web.

This is a really interesting site as well(http://www.panic.com/goods/). the implications are amazing. Drag and drop web design interfaces that are really slick can't be far behind

This is "New"? XMLHTTP has been built into Internet Explorer since version 3.0, and the first "big" implementation of it was Outlook Web Access, written by the Microsoft Exchange team.

It's nice to see that the Mozilla / Firefox people have finally gotten around to including it in their browsers, but frankly, they've really shot themselves in the foot. You can't even make an XMLHTTPRequest in Firefox for a lousy RSS feed if its not in the same domain the page came from.

Acronymns abound. They really don't mean much unless there is really some new, innovative technology behind them. In this case, not.

You may be 100% right as the buzz about Ajax seems to have already slowed down. I did some searches on Ajax news and didn't find much. Still I think Ajax is a better name than XMLHTTP or whatever other acronyms people used to use. Sometimes a name is more important than we give it credit for. WiFi is a better name for example than 802.11x.

In order for Ajax to become popular, we will have to see lots of really interesting web apps that use this technology in new and innovative ways. This in turn will spur imitators.

If you are interested in Ajax maybe you would like:

Panoramio.com

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rich Tehrani published on March 18, 2005 7:36 PM.

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