AJAX: The all-purpose cleaner

I’ve been hearing quite a bit about Ajax, the new wonder technology lately, and finally decided to take some time to check it out.

I followed the link to the Adaptive Path essay on Ajax, and started reading through the writing until I came to the diagram showing an “Ajax Engine”, as part of the new innovation. Being a geek like most other geeks, I then stopped reading and starting looking around for the download button for this new Ajax Engine. Not having found anything I could download, I returned to the essay and continued reading.

What I found is something that sounded strangely familiar. In fact, this ‘new’ technology sounded just like DHTML–Dynamic HTML–except that there was a reliance on a non-browser safe object called the XMLHttpRequest: an object to manage asynchronous XML access from the server from within web pages. An object invented by Microsoft for IE and implemented in Firefox and Safari, but not an objects that’s guaranteed to be cross-browser safe to use.

I admit, I was very confused by this time. I wrote on DHTML in 1998, in fact wrote the book whose cover you see in this post. I have hundreds of examples of DHTML, most several years old. I’ve even used the request object a time or two, but wasn’t necessarily overjoyed by it: I really didn’t like using proprietary objects when I couldn’t find the same functionality in other browsers.

In the FAQ attached to the essay, I did receive some clarification:

Q. Did Adaptive Path invent Ajax? Did Google? Did Adaptive Path help build Google’s Ajax applications?

A. Neither Adaptive Path nor Google invented Ajax. Google’s recent products are simply the highest-profile examples of Ajax applications. Adaptive Path was not involved in the development of Google’s Ajax applications, but we have been doing Ajax work for some of our other clients.

Q. Is Adaptive Path selling Ajax components or trademarking the name? Where can I download it?

A. Ajax isn’t something you can download. It’s an approach — a way of thinking about the architecture of web applications using certain technologies. Neither the Ajax name nor the approach are proprietary to Adaptive Path.

Q. Is Ajax just another name for XMLHttpRequest?

A. No. XMLHttpRequest is only part of the Ajax equation. XMLHttpRequest is the technical component that makes the asynchronous server communication possible; Ajax is our name for the overall approach described in the article, which relies not only on XMLHttpRequest, but on CSS, DOM, and other technologies.

I then read Dare Obasanjo’s excellent tap-tap that yes, the emperor is naked, and that Ajax really is Dynamic HTML with the use of the proprietary XMLHttpRequest object.

(Of course, I’ve used the term DHTML and Dynamic HTML, and in Dare’s write-up, even this is a renaming of an existing concept, so mea culpa in that regard.)

Wow, I didn’t know that I was ahead of the times when it comes to technology. I feel so super cool right now. To celebrate, I decided that I would go through all my burned CDs and recover my old DHTML applications in addition to old write-ups. As I find them, I’ll post them into posts labeled “Ajax” so that you know you’re supposed to jump up and down. (The old Well, if Google uses it then it must be OK thing.)

Starting with one of my favorites: The DHTML Menu Button from Hell, used to demonstrate the benefits of using DHTML to build menus. But if you don’t like that one, then how about Pick-A-Pair–a favorite script of porn sites the world over. Betcha can’t win the triple game.

Of course, this isn’t really Ajax, which requires the use of XMLHttpRequest. Let’s call it “Aja”, instead. Or perhaps “web safe Ajax”. But I’ll see if I can dig up something proprietary for you to see — back when these samples were built, years ago, I tended to focus on standards-based objects and cross-browser compatibility. I now kick myself for seeing that this wasn’t the way of the future.

You know, that’s why we women in technology never get ahead. We just don’t understand the right way of doing things.


Ooops, pointed to the wrong DHTML button example. I’ve updated the page to the right one.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email