Enough with AJAX already

I read a lot of blogs. It’s about the best way I have of keeping up with the trends in the industry. But there’s one trend out there that’s really beginning to bother me. A lot.

Ajax.

It’s an acronym/abbreviation for “Asynchronous Javascript with XML”. It’s this supposedly wonderful technique that solves a wonderful array of problems by introducing XML into advanced Javascript methods.

News flash, folks, this ain’t new. This has been around since XMLHTTPRequest was introduced with IE 5.0 in March, 1999. (It’s still not officially standardized by anyone, especially the ECMA, who until now has kept up with the specification of the scripting language we generally call “Javascript”.) Despite being available for so long, no-one really put it to use until Google slapped in place for Google Suggest. Suddenly, everyone took notice.

Apparently, having read around a little more about Ajax, I’ve come to a conclusion that I don’t intend to ever use “Ajax”. I’ll use XMLHTTPRequest when needed, and I’ll make a point of using advanced Javascript, again when needed. But I won’t use “Ajax”. Because as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t exist.

Okay, yes, it’s a catchy name — that I won’t deny. But is it worthy of the recognition? Hmm… well, maybe just a little. Enough that it attracts attention and gets people to think about techniques they might not have previously considered. In a way “Ajax” will serve the same purpose “DHTML” once did.

For those of you newer to the field, “DHTML” isn’t a technology. In fact, DHTML mirrors Ajax in many ways. It’s a technique, and the parts aren’t all required. DHTML was a marketing gimmick Microsoft came up with to sell the blending of HTML, CSS, and JScript (remember, Microsoft doesn’t acknowledge Java at all). The idea was that this powerful “new” technology would solve a lot of problems.

When DHTML was first proposed, it caught a lot of buzz in the field. And rightfully so, because at the time, most people were mired in tags, bgcolor attributes, and tables for layout. DHTML would solve those woes and turn people towards the standards they were supposed to use.

It’s odd that Microsoft would be the one to drive many towards standards, especially since they didn’t formalize any of them. (Though Microsoft did come up with a lot of the ideas that are now the standards .) And change we did, though not entirely to Microsoft’s urging — we also have the Web Standards Project and their efforts to thank.

The effect, however, will likely be the same. Ajax will direct those who’d never really thought past simple image replacement scripts to now think about making their sites more functional and more engaging than ever before. XML isn’t a requirement, but it is a convenient part of making it all work. In time, Ajax will likely serve the same purpose DHTML did.

Okay, so maybe I’ve been a little too harsh. Ajax does serve a purpose. And it will continue to be talked about. I just hope the discussion is intelligent and comprehensible. I want the people reading about Ajax to understand that it is not a silver bullet, and what exactly Ajax does and how they can use it.

Mostly because I’m sick of seeing “DHTML” on resumes, and I’m not keen to see “Ajax” show up there with the same level of ignorance.

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