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RIA & Ajax: Article

Why's AJAX So Special: Anatomy of the "AJAX Wildfire"

AJAXWorld Magazine feature focus looks at the views behind the news

“AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?”

With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine’s feature focus on “What’s So Special About AJAX?” – in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

You can read the rest of what Pascarello (pictured) said here, as well as enjoy the insights and analysis of Nexaweb Founder & CTO Coach Wei, Yahoo! Evangelist Bill Scott, AJAX & JSF specialists Jonas Jacobi & John Fallows, scripter Brent Ashley, and AJAX in Action co-author Dave Crane.

Pascarello’s main point, and one which will resonate with SYS-CON.com readers and vendors worldwide, is that AJAX is big because it is not server-platform dependent.

”I can write a JavaScript front end that can talk with PHP, Java, .NET, ColdFusion, etc. That is why AJAX is getting so much attention,” Pascarello says.

Brent Ashley underlined a different aspect that in his view explains the whole phenomenon. The disruptive (and accelerating) impact of AJAX owes everything, he believes, to the way it has begun to blur the distinction between web sites and web applications – think Gmail, Google Maps, writely, or delici.cio.us.

Here is how Ashley views the situation today:

"AJAX…has become the catalyst that made the evolutionary transition between web ‘Sites’ and web ‘Applications’ not only possible but within everyone's reach. AJAX has since become associated with many implementations that are not necessarily limited to the exact technical components of the original acronym.”

Bill Scott, the co-founder of Rico and currently AJAX Evangelist for Yahoo! makes the same point:

”Before AJAX became truly cross browser and ubiquitous, the classic web site was tied to the page refresh model. Want more information? Tear down the page and build it back up. This seriously affected both the programming model and the way sites were designed.

The introduction of AJAX tears down this page boundary and opens a pipeline to just-in-time information, presentation or even logic to flow continuously into the page all the way across the user's interactions.”

This, Scott argues, is why AJAX is proving to be so special.

AJAX & JSF specialists and co-authors Jonas Jacobi & John Fallows come at the whole “AJAX wildfire” issue from a refreshingly irreverent perspective.

”Developers are like all people,” they say. “People always love to enrich their lives with the most popular trends, such as Nike Air Jordans, an Apple iPod, a Gucci purse…or AJAX.”

“The term ‘AJAX’ delivers a ‘cool’ brand name for this suite of useful technologies, unifying the public perception,” Jacobi and Fallows add.

But they also sense that there are real, technologically-driven reasons for the specialness of AJAX. “AJAX is an open solution that is not controlled by any one corporation or individual,” notes Jacobi, a J2EE technology evangelist at Oracle. “It was delivered at the time when developers were ready to embrace a common vision for the future of web application development,” adds Fallows.

AJAX also provides plugin-free, browser-compatible interactivity to traditional Web applications, say the co-authors of Pro JSF and Ajax. Desktop hardware advances have resolved many of the browser performance issues regarding JavaScript execution. Network hardware advances have resolved many of the network latency issues regarding JavaScript download and server communication.

Last but not least is the element of community that is proving a key AJAX driver. ”Developers need a community to discuss ideas and improve status quo solutions,” say Jacobi and Fallows "AJAX has provided that community by unifying previously fragment efforts to improve web application development.”

They even go so far as to posit what they call an Algorithm for Success:

(marketing brand + technical feasibility) * developer need * market timing precision = degree of success

Rich Internet Applications pioneer Coach Wei doesn’t come up with an algorithm but, as we have come to expect of the founder and CTO of Nexaweb, he does have his very own viewpoint.

It’s not a general fascination with JavaScript/DHTML per se that’s driving the AJAX wildfire, he argues. According to Wei, the AJAX phenomena reflects instead an “eye opening” realization of what the web can be for the millions.

”For the last ten years,” Wei explains, “millions of Netizens have accepted the web’s 'click and refresh' experience as 'the way it has to be.' For the first time, millions of people have now realized how better the web can be. The better web is exciting - it is faster, it doesn’t require constant 'click wait and refresh.' For the first time, the millions have realized life can be so much better. Then the acronym ‘AJAX’ was born and then the excitement around AJAX came along.”

“On the other side, forget about AJAX,” Wei finishes, “The truly exciting thing is about Web 2.0, the next-generation web and the opportunities that it creates.”

The web, Wei says with complete authority and assurance, “will be more responsive, smoother and reliable."

"It would be more enjoyable to work with. It would unleash a new set of business opportunities that were not possible before. Look at the various exciting companies, ranging from RIA infrastructure/tool companies; new e-commerce/airline ticket booking companies, new media companies. A new level of excitement of VC interest is starting to emerge.”

In summary, the excitement about AJAX is that it heralds a new, global sense of what the web can be and what the web can do, in ways that are so different but so much better than what we have been used to. What’s special about AJAX, say our experts – differing in nuance and detail, but broadly agreeing with Coach Wei  –  is really that it has raised worldwide awareness about what this “new” web can enable.

More Stories By RIA News Desk

Ever since Google popularized a smarter, more responsive and interactive Web experience by using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for its Google Maps & Gmail applications, SYS-CON's RIA News Desk has been covering every aspect of Rich Internet Applications and those creating and deploying them. If you have breaking RIA news, please send it to RIA@sys-con.com to share your product and company news coverage with AJAXWorld readers.

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Most Recent Comments
n d 09/13/06 01:12:46 PM EDT

'AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?' With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine's feature focus on 'What's So Special About AJAX?' - in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

n d 09/11/06 07:17:25 PM EDT

'AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?' With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine's feature focus on 'What's So Special About AJAX?' - in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

SYS-CON Australia News Desk 09/11/06 02:31:59 PM EDT

'AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?' With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine's feature focus on 'What's So Special About AJAX?' - in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

AJAXWorld News Desk 09/11/06 01:39:55 PM EDT

'AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?' With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine's feature focus on 'What's So Special About AJAX?' - in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

AJAXWorld News Desk 08/04/06 10:23:30 AM EDT

'AJAX is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?' With this rhetorical question, AJAX author and speaker Eric Pascarello has the final say in AJAXWorld Magazine's feature focus on 'What's So Special About AJAX?' - in which Jeremy Geelan this month asked leading practitioners to help him pinpoint the special qualities of the AJAX approach to Web development that has been transforming the adoption rate of Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 approaches from gradual to pervasive.

AJAX update 08/04/06 10:17:39 AM EDT

In other news, the hot new technology behind slick Web pages has suddenly become the hot new tool for cybercriminals. Cybercrooks have added Ajax coding to their bag of hacking tricks.

AjaxCoded.com 08/04/06 10:03:46 AM EDT

 Google has released a Google AJAX Search API - Issue Tracking web page. Here's the URL:
http://code.google.com/apis/ajaxsearch/issues/"target="new"

Not only do they give us a forum with developers present to discuss the API we can now see all the progress on bugs and feature request. If you find a problem or have a request you still report them at the Google AJAX Search API Groups Discussion. It also helps us know what they consider a real issue.

Thanks Google!