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Editor at Large

AJAX in the spotlight next week and beyond

Apr 20, 20063 mins
Development ApproachesDevelopment ToolsEnterprise Applications

When is a technology officially hot? Perhaps when it starts getting trade shows and other industry events named for it. If so, then Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, or AJAX, Web application scripting technology definitely fits this description.

The Real-World AJAX Seminar is being held in San Jose,  next week. Meanwhile, a two-day AJAX technical conference, AjaxWorld Conference & Expo, is planned for this October in Santa Clara.

Consultant Jesse James Garrett, who invented the term AJAX in 2005, will be speaking about what he describes as the AJAX “phenomenon” at the San Jose seminar. Garrett is director of user experience strategy and a co-founder of Adaptive Path, which he categorizes as a product strategy firm.

“What has happened since I coined the term AJAX [is] there has been this enormous groundswell of activity among independent designers and developers taking up this concept and running with it,” Garrett said. “One of the really [special] things about AJAX is that it’s not a technology platform that was handed down from on high by some vendor, but it’s this loose collection of browser-native technologies that the interest in which has really come from the bottom up.”

No vendor has driven AJAX, but now vendors such as Microsoft must accommodate to it, Garrett said. Microsoft’s planned Atlas technology is a response to AJAX, he said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the major platform vendors respond to this groundswell of interest in AJAX,” Garrett said.

Garrett recognizes that AJAX technologies themselves have been around for a while. But developers now have a name to use when referring to this approach to developing applications, he said. The main attraction of AJAX is it enables developers to break out of the page-based interaction model of Web applications, Garrett said. “It allows them to be more dynamic,” he said.

AJAX, he acknowledged, is not without issues, such as a lack of tools. “There are issues with AJAX, and it’s a young approach in a lot of ways,” Garrett said. “We’re still learning how to do it more effectively, and we’re still creating tools for ourselves to improve our AJAX applications. That’s where really most of the energy is right now, in the creation of tools and frameworks to make it easier and simpler to do this work.”

Ruby on Rails, Garrett said, has become popular because it is one of the easiest ways to build an AJAX application.

A Mercury Interactive official earlier this week, however, cautioned against overuse of AJAX, saying it is not sufficiently structured.

“We’ve seen tons and tons of problems,” with AJAX, said Rajesh Radhakrishnan, vice president of application delivery at Mercury.

AJAX, though, has been the client-side technology that Java was supposed to be, Garrett said. “AJAX, I think in a lot of ways, fulfills the hopes that people had for Java on the client,” he said.