AJAX: Are You Experienced?

AJAX has taken the developer world by storm, but it could be even more effective with the right browser capabilities.

AJAX has taken the developer world by storm, but it could be even more effective with the right browser capabilities, said two Asynchronous JavaScript and XML experts at the inaugural AJAX Experience conference here.

Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith, co-founders of Ajaxian.com, opened the conference on May 10 with an evening keynote and a wish list for features of a nextgeneration browser: two-dimensional drawing (Canvas) acceleration on top of Microsofts DirectX, Quartz and Cairo/Xgl; just-in-time-compiled JavaScript; a transparent memory model with memory introspection/debugging tools; and an offline storage API.

"Were sick of people saying The Web sucks, you need rich clients," Galbraith said. "With these features, wed be pretty excited about the world we could live in."

The pair poked fun at issues hindering greater adoption of AJAX. For example, Microsoft is said to have invented XMLHttpRequest (also known as XHR, an interface exposed by a Web browsers scripting engine to perform HTTP client functionality) in 1997. It went unnoticed for several years until Mozilla introduced it into its browser. Then, "XHR went undiscovered in Mozilla until Gmail, Google Maps and Google Suggest," Galbraith said.

Galbraith said the Web developer community is adept at innovating within constraints. But with AJAX and the current technology base, developers can create user experiences comparable to desktop applications, he said. And Galbraith said he believes that "Comet will change the server-side game."

Comet is a programming technique that enables Web servers to send data to the client without the client having to request it. It allows creation of event-driven Web applications that are hosted in the browser.

Meanwhile, Almaer said "a lot of the desktop guys are jealous of some of this stuff," referring to the rich user experiences afforded by AJAX.

"Its actually easier to do rich applications in AJAX than in the desktop tools," Galbraith said. "Although Microsoft is innovating with Avalon. And youll see the rich clients of yesterday turn into the filthy-rich clients of tomorrow."

Almaer and Galbraith warned the audience not to expect much from Microsofts Internet Explorer. "IE 7 will not have a lot of new features," Galbraith said. "[The Mozilla Foundations] Firefox and [Apple Computers] Safari have SVG [Scalable Vector Graphics] and Canvas, and the VML [Vector Markup Language] wrapper for IE helps, but ... it doesnt go far enough."

However, Microsofts WPF/E, or Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere, "may help here, provided it ships," Galbraith joked. WPF/E is a portable subset of WPF and can run on multiple platforms.

Ajax Through the Ages

* XMLHttpRequest, also known as XHR, a key component of AJAX, was created by Microsofts Exchange team in 1997.

* Mozilla Foundation incorporated XHR into its browser in 2002.

* XHR went largely unnoticed in Mozilla until Gmail, Google Maps and Google Suggest used it.

Source: eWEEK reporting