Scott Hanselman

The Coming Return of AJAX

September 9, '05 Comments [9] Posted in ASP.NET | Javascript | XML | CodeRush | Tools
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I've been thinking about AJAX - not the Greek Hero, the technology - a lot lately. Of course, it's nothing new, blah blah Outlook Web Access blah blah DHTML blah blah IE 4.0. I totally hear you and I agree. It sucks that the folks that really conceived of DHTML aren't getting the props they deserve. But, that's the way of the 'net. That said, it's clear that folks are galvanized by the technology getting a sexy makeover (AJAX = sexy vs. DHTML = less so) but more that the technology really works. Sure Outlook Web Access is pretty, but it looks like crap in Firefox because it renders downlevel.  (Aside, it'll be interesting to see if there will be an ASP.NET 2.5 or something earth-shattering coming soon. From what I hear from contacts at public facing MS properties there's some amazing things coming that will melt our faces if we knew.)

Anyway, I've been collecting AJAX stuff in an attempt to grok what's coming and reconcile it with many years of JavaScript (née LiveScript) and these past years of ASP.NET. There a number of things happening all at the same time and the confluence of standards like XML, ECMAScript, the new data format JSON (pronounced "Jason" - The JavaScript Object Notation) along with specs to make the J and X in AJAX work better together plus broad browser support for XHTML and CSS is really bringing the promise of a Web that we were originally promised in 1996. The young people are calling it Web 2.0. Um, OK. If you lived through the BBS days, VT100, Lynx, Mosaic, AOL in DOS, CompuServe, Prodigy, and the pox that was Netscape 4, you realize it's Web 13.0.

Anil also makes a good point about the coming of dampening (another word for common sense + good design) as a design feature. Some folks may poo-poo the shiny and glare that is Windows Vista (and CodeRush for that matter) as eye-candy, but they will eventually die off and fade away. Well, they won't fade away, they will disappear instantly without a visual cue as to why they left. Regardless, let's put these Pentium 4s to work doing something more interesting than rebooting quickly.

Here's some AJAX useful links I've collected. Incidently, some were found during my recent GTD obsession/adoption.

Now playing: Musiq Soulchild - Just Friends

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, September 09, 2005 10:46:20 AM UTC
You missed monorail
Friday, September 09, 2005 11:30:33 AM UTC
WebX works for me. Numbers are so, well Roman.
Friday, September 09, 2005 1:06:25 PM UTC
I've been researching a lot in that field too and I wish more of thoise AJAX toolkits were decently documented. Since the prototype.js library is used a lot and does not have documentation, I've put some unofficial reference up at http://www.sergiopereira.com/articles/prototype.js.html . Maybe you find it useful.
Sergio Pereira
Friday, September 09, 2005 1:11:23 PM UTC
Sorry for commentin twice in a row. I think this FF extensions helps a lot when ou are debugging your AJAX scripts: http://blog.monstuff.com/archives/000252.html
Sergio Pereira
Friday, September 09, 2005 2:10:45 PM UTC
I couldn't agree with you more about what you said regarding DHTML:
"Of course, it's nothing new, blah blah Outlook Web Access blah blah DHTML blah blah IE 4.0."

I have been using this since 2000 so it's funny to hear people talking so much about this like it's some new and amazing thing. Nonetheless, it is a nice way to make the web respond quicker and give it a more fat client feel.
Avid Reader
Friday, September 09, 2005 3:32:49 PM UTC
Scott,

I understand that you're coming to Dallas to talk about The Zen of Web Services in November. Any chance you could make it "The Zen of AJAX" instead?

I'm attending, regardless!
Friday, September 09, 2005 5:01:01 PM UTC
Since you've mentioned JSON, it would be worth noting that there exists also a JSON-RPC specification[1] that builds on top of JSON and in fact looks like nothing more than JSON on the wire. The specification is so simple, and rightly so for the problem it solves, that you can fit it in your head within a few minutes (something that's pretty rare these days). It's nice to see that some of the libraries you've mentioned have adopted JSON for the data format, but it would be even nicer if they were to embrace JSON-RPC for the request and response pieces as well. It should be pretty trivial considering that these libraries have the JSON piece already in place and that the request and response messages are little more than a wrapper JSON object around the call data. The benefit of standarizing on the message exchange format would be that developers can choose among various client-[2] and server-side libraries, although this freedom could come at the cost of some added complexity in the beginning.

[1] http://www.json-rpc.org/
[2] http://jsolait.net/
[3] http://www.json-rpc.org/impl.xhtml
Friday, September 09, 2005 5:20:39 PM UTC
Telerik does AJAX too. I like the new Datagrids from ComponentArt, DevExpress & Telerik because they do callbacks now.

Talking about CodeRush, I would like to see a detailed comparison between it and Resharper. Anyone?

Abdu
Abdu
Monday, September 12, 2005 2:24:53 PM UTC
you missed the JSAN project
Hopefully JSAN will do to javascript what cpan did to Perl.

http://www.openjsan.org/
John Morales
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.