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AJAX & REA: Article

What Makes AJAX So Special? AjaxWorld Magazine's Executive Survey

Yahoo!'s Bill Scott & Eric Miraglia, Nexaweb's Coach Wei, Zimbra's Ross Dargahi, JSF/AJAX Experts Jonas Jacobi & John Fallows

 Jeremy Geelan's i-Technology Blog: "Truly, Madly, Deeply AJAX"

View on SYS.CON.TV: Real-World AJAX San Jose "AJAX Power Panel"

Not since the formation of NATO in 1945 have four letters been combined to such globe-spanning effect, nor has any 4-letter acronym since then been the subject of such hyperbole. (Quod erat demonstrandum.)

I refer of course to "AJAX."

What is it about AJAX that sets it apart from other programming acronyms and approaches? SYS-CON Media's AjaxWorld Magazine asked a number of its most active and industry-engaged contributors to offer their thoughts. Here are the results.

BILL SCOTT, an Interaction Designer and AJAX Evangelist at Yahoo! has no doubt what makes AJAX so special.
"Since the 80s, the desktop application world has had a rich a set of user interaction idioms and ways to get at large sets of data and present them in an almost unlimited type of ways (albeit usually bounded by platform specific style guidelines.)

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.

Instead of designing the user flow in chunks around the submit and hyperlink events, suddenly you are now able to design with the user in mind, respecting the true workflow process; keeping the user "in the flow". It has opened the potential for information in context all the time, in real time and just-in-time; just the way the user thinks about the problem. That is why AJAX is so special."
Scott is part of the newly formed Design and Practices Team working with teams throughout Yahoo! to create a rich experience on the web, so he knows whereof he speaks.

As does ERIC PASCARELLO, co-author of the bestselling book "Ajax in Action" and the author of "JavaScript: Your Visual Blueprint for Building Dynamic Web Pages."

Pascarello makes five incisive points about AJAX:

1 - Ajax is big for one main reason. 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. You have all of these develop groups that usually taunt each other working in the same area! (I am a .NET developer moderating on JavaRanch.com, I get teased enough!) If it were just dependent on one serverside framework Java or .NET, I do not think it would have been so big.

2 - Ajax is innovation. We have been stuck in this mold that the Web page has two separate parts that interact will form submissions. We had to live with rendering of controls for small updates. We have to download any information on the page we may need to use. Ajax changed the way we do trees, tool tips, surveys, polling, etc.

3 - The XMLHttprequest object is more reliable (Well if we forget about ActiveX) manner to transport data to and from the server. Yes, we all have been using PopUp windows, frames, and iframes to do the same tasks, but now we can tell when we have an error more easily and we can determine if something is taking too long. (But we do have to worry about certain pop up blockers! I talk about that at the Real World Ajax Seminar in San Jose!)

4 - User task time is also reduced with Ajax powered components on a Web page. Simple controls like an auto complete textbox, linked selects (double combos), live searches, and server polling can eliminate key strokes and time waiting for the page to render. No more sitting in my cube hitting F5 waiting to get more spam in my web mail inbox! People always talk about not having enough time to do things, Ajax may change that. If Ajax could tell me where I left my keys, I would become even more efficient! Anyone have spare RFID tags, GPS, and the Google Maps API handy? I got an idea....

5 - Ajax is allowing people to get paid to code in JavaScript. Would you ever have guessed that?


NEXT PAGE: Eric Pascarello's co-author, DAVE CRANE, and AJAX experts JONAS JACOBI & JOHN FALLOWS


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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