Is AJAX something revolutionary?


AJAX seems to be the new “buzzword of the day”. In short, AJAX stands for “Asynchronous JavaScript And XML”, an acronym coined by Jesse Garrett recently. The basic idea is very nice – you can actually perform client-side programming directly in the DHTML code, in the embedded JavaScript. And, while the DHTML page interacts with the user, it talks asynchronously in the background with the server through a variety of methods, notably by sending/receiving XML fragments.

This acronym is mostly used today in the context of Google Maps. I admit that it looks pretty cool – I even posted a while back a technical article about how it uses the AJAX concepts here.

But is this AJAX concept something new? Well, it quickly turns out that it’s not. Although we don’t see it all over the place, people already used this idea pretty heavily in the past few years. I would pick a notable example: Outlook Web Access.

OWA has been out there for years, since the good old days of Microsoft Exchange 5.5. I was always amazed by this application, especially in the most recent versions, by its ability to mimic pretty closely the look-and-feel of the Outlook client. The latest incarnation of OWA has two flavors. The rich OWA uses a combination of several technologies at the browser side (JavaScript, WebDAV, XML, XSLT, etc) to create a pretty interactive application. The reach version uses very few browser features, and it even works with IE 4.02 or earlier (although I am not sure if anybody is using that browser version 🙂

[update: more AJAX-related posts from Microsofties: here and here]

Comments (14)

  1. Andrey Skvortsov says:

    Yeah,it seems some people noticed XmlHttp object only few days ago while it existent for years(starting from msxml3 I suppose;-)

  2. I am developing an ASP.Net library which makes it very easy to create "AJAX-like" web site while programming in C# and VB.Net only. You can have a look at http://devrs.sitemire.net (works with IE 6.0 only for the moment)

    The approach is a little bit different because the idea is to free the developer from having to write a single line of code of javascript.

  3. SwitchBL8 says:

    Not new at all. Laszlo (open source!) is another initiative that accomplishes the same: a very rich (web)client, but by having JSP generate Flash-code.

    See: http://www.openlaszlo.org

    It’s being backed by IBM and you can create Laszlo-applications in Eclipse (IDE4Laszlo, a modified Eclipse).

    I’ve blogged about it.

  4. SimonT says:

    Been writing AJAX apps since IE4SDK came out but I used RemoteScripting and my own xml posts using invisible Iframes to acheive it , pre-xmlhttp.

    Notice that .NET introduced a similar AJAX style technique of invisible iframe posts and dhtml with the SmartNavigation option on ASP.NET pages.

  5. Adam Young says:

    Yep, it’s been around for 4 or 5 years+. You can use MSXML, or the Web Service Behavior (http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/workshop/author/webservice/overview.asp) to accomplish this. Note that ASP.NET 2 will support this (http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnmag/issues/05/01/CuttingEdge/default.aspx).

  6. George says:

    No no no, you’re wrong. HTML and XML are boring.

    It’s Asynchronous JSON And XUL

    Take a look here:

    http://www.georgenava.com/applauncher.php

    PS. Firefox only!

    😉

  7. Rick Casey says:

    Interesting. Our product, Octane8 (http://www.octane8.com), administrative interface is a flash based application that uses this method sending/receiving of xml fragments from the server.

    I really like it a lot as it seems to have some great potential in making web applications more interactive and appealing. I’ve loved what google had done with it.

  8. Darrell says:

    Google didn’t claim to invent "AJAX". However, they did it "right" coupled with their very responsive networked computers and enough usability to hit the ball out of the park. Maybe the technology part was not new, but the whole solution was put together well enough to put everyone else to shame.

    Oh and their work doesn’t require the flash plugin. I prefer not to use it because there are so many POORLY done flash sites. If you need a button that says "Skip Intro", just remove the darn intro.

  9. Darrell says:

    Oh, and in regards to OWA, it doesn’t run very well on Mozilla/Firefox. Google made theirs run in a much more cross-platform manner.

    The argument thrown back at me is "but OWA is intended for intranet use where companies can control the browser." If someone says this then they’ve never had to actually convince people to use an intranet app they created. People (users) will hang their hat on anything that they can use to resist change.

  10. Rick Casey says:

    Yea, the google work really surprised me as well with their gmail.com and maps.google.com sites. I was left there for a momment scratching my head and thinking how did that happen.

    I do agree with the skiping the intro to some sites. They are pointless. Most people just want to work…

    Unless its the scroller to a star wars movie. I can watch that everytime I see the movie.

  11. Manoj Nahar says:

    what google has done is not something new, they have put together a whole solution that has created interest in so called AJAX, I hope this would herald a new Era of Best Client and Server side programming.

    Yes this is not something new.. one can see example of AJAX similar to google maps here

    http://www.hot-maps.de/europe/germany/germany_physical/homede.html

    Not being too optimistic I can say this would be year of Asynchronous JavaScript And XML.

  12. Bart says:

    This is Ajax !!! a soccer club of more the 100 years old.

    http://www.ajax.nl/home/

  13. Bart says:

    This is Ajax !!! a soccer club of more the 100 years old.

    http://www.ajax.nl/home/

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