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SYS-CON.TV Exclusive Interview with the Father of the Term "AJAX" – Jesse James Garrett

Full Transcript of New York City Interview with Jesse James Garrett

JEREMY GEELAN:  I've got to ask you, and I know that everyone watching this interview Web-wide on SYS-CON.TV wants me to ask you: are you fed up at all with being "The Father of the Term AJAX"? - because you don't look it...

GARRETT:  No, no, not at all. It's been fun. It's been really great for me to have the opportunity to talk to people all over the world and it's so exciting to me what's happening with AJAX and with the evolution of Web technology. I'm excited to be a part of it and so many of the people that I talk to, people at events like this one, are excited to be a part of it, too. That energy is what keeps me going.

GEELAN:  Let's just talk, because I know it's a lovely story and you told it in your keynote this morning. There you were coining this term in your little February essay last year, and you go on a trip, not knowing that anything would happen.

GARRETT:  Right. I had no idea what was coming, obviously, because I put the essay up on our Web site and then I immediately left the country for two weeks...

GEELAN:  This was quite a thoughtful essay. We're not talking the front of the New York Post. It was a thoughtful, scholarly essay that you posted and probably said, well, I got that out of my system. Now it's time to travel. What happens next?

GARRETT:  I was out of the country for a couple of weeks with essentially no Internet access. I come back home and there's been this avalanche of e-mail waiting for me, e-mail from people all over the world, people who want to know if they can buy some AJAX from me and people who have all kinds of questions about the concept. The site was on Slashdot one day and so there was a lot of feedback from that and it was really - I'm so glad in some ways that I wasn't there to have to deal with it in the moment.

GEELAN:  You saw it maybe as a whole - oh my God, I've obviously touched some kind of nerve; I'd better back up and figure out what this is.

GARRETT:  Exactly.

GEELAN: When you do back up, and you're such a good explicator, and figure out what it is, what's the easiest way to quickly, disabuse my question at once, turn it back to me and say, look, the thing is that someone else should have figured out this word AJAX but I did it, so it needed figuring out, right? I think that was always a business problem for you.

GARRETT:  Absolutely. That was the business problem for me. My company, Adaptive Path, is a product strategy company. We do a lot of work with business people to help them figure out how to leverage technology to deliver compelling experiences to users.

GEELAN:  Right. For that they need to master the concept.

GARRETT:  Right, and so a lot of my job is as an interpreter between technology people and business people to help persuade the business people of the appropriate technological approach for their particular problem, and AJAX was one tool that I came up with in my work as a consultant to address that problem.

GEELAN:   You're coming out with this sort of collection of technologies and thinking, how am I going to keep referring to that time and time again. You're going to have to just call it something. Maybe it is as simple as that. That's what's formed this term

GARRETT:  I realized also that once you start talking about a collection of things, then you have to explain how those things fit together and that was where I felt that the conversation was going to really get away from the part that I wanted to talk about, the part that I thought was important, which was the impact on the user experience. That was really where the concept of AJAX came about.

GEELAN:  And you have the A in place and you have the J in place. Most people would know about that, but perhaps you should just go over that.

GARRETT:  For me, the really compelling thing about AJAX is this new asynchronous interaction model, because this is where we have the opportunity to change the way that people work with and think about the Web by making that interaction asynchronous, so what the user does and what the server does are no longer so tightly linked. This was really the main concept that I wanted to communicate to my clients. The addition of JavaScript and XML were just some choices to flesh it out, to help them understand that we were talking about client-side browser technologies that made this possible as opposed to technologies like Flash or Java.

GEELAN:  Scroll forward then. It's February 2005, and, lo and behold, more or less a year and, wow, what a year.

GARRETT:  Yeah, it's been crazy.

GEELAN:  Who would have thunk it. Where will it go? Clearly this pace can't last, neither should it. It doesn't need to last, but that doesn't mean that the momentum can't increase; the speed may slow down, but the momentum is increasing, absolutely.
GARRETT:  Oh, sure.

GEELAN:  You're seeing a massive take-up. This sort of call to action at a seminar like this is clearly: go and start doing it, and find out about it, visit your site, nose around with it. What would you like to see happen in the course of the year? Were you hoping that the enterprise side of it would be sorted out by the community? What were your ambitions? There may be none.

GARRETT: There are certainly, at this point, things that I'd like to see happen with AJAX in the world. Obviously, the ongoing development of toolkits to make it easier for developers to put AJAX applications out there into the world, but it's going to be a process that's going to take some time for those to reach an appropriate level of maturity; I'm sure there's going to be a profusion of different approaches there. But what I think a lot of people miss in the discussion about AJAX is they get hung up on the technology, and they get hung up on code and things like that.

    I think the reason AJAX is compelling to anyone at all is because of the impact that it has for the users, the way that it is able to create these applications that have these dynamic rich experiences to them that change the way we think about, the way we relate to the medium. My hope is that all of the people who right now are wrestling with the code, once they get to the point where they're more comfortable with the code, they can turn their attention to what it is about AJAX that makes it so compelling for people, and explore and push the boundaries of that.

Next: Jesse James Garrett on "Rich Media," "Web 2.0" and the "One-Page Web"

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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