It's become obvious that people really don't "get" AJAX, but then I guess this is the problem with buzzwords.  I got a call the other day from a recruiter who was interested because of my experience in the application known as AJAX. I just read a review in PC Magazine revew of Mercora Radio that said "you open an Ajax-based browser page".

AJAX itself is something many of us have been doing for awhile. The term, of course, was coined by Jesse James Garrett who described it as an "approach" to web applications. It is definitely an approach, not a single technology or really even a set of technologies.

The general principle is that, instead of going back to refresh the page each time, you do more from the client. That's all. AJAX is about the user experience - it provides something closer to a desktop application in a web broser, something we didn't typically see. In that sense, it's a shame that the term includes "Javascript" and "XML", because neither of those are essential to the relevance of AJAX. As I said in that previous post, "what is relevant about AJAX is not the Javascript and the XML, but the experience. Those specific technologies just happen to be a means to that end." For example, Julien is using Flash as a proxy to workaround cross-domain issues with XmlHttpRequest.

In fact, with Atlas and other frameworks we're already seeing a trend away from returning XML and transforming it on the client. Instead, Atlas returns JSON - Javascript code that is evaluated on the client. (The motivation behind this is that many browser, specifically Safari, still have very poor XML/XSLT support).

The term, while technology agnostic, seems to refer to code that runs within the sandbox of the browser. Perhaps ironically, many so-called AJAX applications use ActiveX controls (a broken technology) or VBS which require full trust or otherwise install code locally. If you have to install something on the client that runs with full trust, you might as well just deliver a full desktop application that isn't bound by browser capabilities. Mercado Radio, for example, uses VBScript that Windows Live OneCare recognizes as a suspected virus. Similarly, Windows Live itself was positioned as AJAX when it was really a bunch of fully-trusted ActiveX controls. Another example is AjaxWrite, which is just a XUL application that won't even run in Internet Explorer - which still happens to be the dominant web-browser.

I guess this is the problem with such ambigious, vague buzzwords though. The recruiter and the reviewer both hear it but they don't understand what it means or why it's important.

(Note to Jesse James Garrett - hope you weren't planning on trademarking AJAX because it's too late.)

Tags: ,


blog comments powered by Disqus