Monthly Archives: February 2005

AJAX Prophesy

On February 26, 2005, I wrote my co-workers imploring them to read and grasp the significance of Jesse James Garrett’s article that coined the phrase AJAX. I recently stumbled upon this email and was pleased with how prophetic it turned out to be.

In retrospect, AJAX seems like an easy call, but at the time I wrote this, the phrase had just been coined and no one was certain how widely the technology would be adopted. In fact, I received push back from engineers that there was “nothing new here” and that they were doing this before with Perl-based web clients.

I’ve decided to post the email here for archival purposes and back date it to the time of my original email:

To: Staff
Subject: AJAX Web Development

As technology develops, it seems that there are seminal moments that describe and amplify a trend that has been percolating under the surface. Four years ago Jeffrey Zeldman wrote “To Hell with Web Browsers,” and with that declaration changed the way web developers everywhere, including Kavi, build sites.

What Zeldman proposed wasn’t anything new. The technological underpinning that he advocated had been around for years, and there had been a growing trend towards standards-based design prior to his call to arms.

What made Zeldman’s declaration significant wasn’t the ideas in it. Instead, he said the right thing at the right time. He coalesced many trends in web site development into a single, forceful argument for the standards-based web site development.

Why talk about this now? Because the day after the anniversary of Zeldman’s article, Jesse James Garrett wrote an article that I believe will mark another seminal point in web site development:
http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000385.php

The article carries many of the same characteristics. It describes existing technology (XMLHttpRequest) that has been around for a long time that has only recently begun to be looked at in a different light. Recent projects, particularly by Google, have illustrated how powerful this technology can be.

Take a look at Google Suggest (http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en) to see a web page auto-complete your search terms or try Google Maps and drag the map around with your cursor (http://maps.google.com/). And of course Gmail’s major appeal comes from it’s wonderful interface based on the same technology. In each case, the traditional web paradigm of the user making a change, submitting a form, and then waiting for the entire page to load has been replaced with nearly instantaneous feedback.

Garrett’s article gives this technology combination a name–AJAX which short for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML. His article marks the launching point for broader adoption of this technology. I expect to see many more web sites utilizing this technology combination over the next couple of years.

AJAX holds tremendous promise for our applications as well. Imagine auto-completion functionality when editing a company record and the time-savings it would give our customers who interact with our applications daily.

Four years ago, we could not have anticipated that the change advocated by Zeldman we be pervasive throughout the work that we do. Yet it has become a key part of what we do. And we have benefitted from adopting that philosophy.

AJAX holds that same promise. I encourage everyone who develops sites to read Garrett’s article. Keep your eye on this technology. I guarantee that you will see more of it in the future.

-Jason

References:

Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications
http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000385.php

And Jeffrey said, “To Hell”
http://www.dashes.com/anil/2005/02/17/and_jeffrey_sai

To Hell With Bad Browswers
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/tohell/

XMLHttpRequest References
http://developer.apple.com/internet/webcontent/xmlhttpreq.html
http://www.xml.com/lpt/a/2005/02/09/xml-http-request.html
http://developer.apple.com/internet/webcontent/iframe.html
http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/1557

Examples of Ajax (XMLHttpRequest)
http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en
http://maps.google.com/
http://gmail.google.com/
http://www.a9.com/
http://blog.bitflux.ch/wiki/LiveSearch
http://www.basecamphq.com
http://www.tadalist.com
http://www.papermountain.org/demos/live/@JWanaRSVkJNJuQov/aHmKJgXs