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Putting Ajax in Perspective
Check out what industry experts had to say at the FTP Virtual Tradeshow on Ajax's panel discussion: Putting Ajax in Perspective.
Moderated by Terrence O'Donnell and Peter Varhol

August 15, 2006

Welcome to the FTPOnline Virtual Tradeshow on Ajax. We're featuring a panel discussion titled, "Putting Ajax in Perspective." Here are our panelists:

  • Scott Dietzen is president and CTO of Zimbra, Inc.
  • Ben Galbraith is a consultant and the cofounder of Ajaxian.com.
  • Sahil Malik is Telerik technical evangelist for Microsoft MVP.
  • Michael Peachey is product manager and director of engineering at TIBCO Software, Inc.
  • Jouk Pleiter is CEO at Backbase BV.
  • Paul Rademacher is a software engineer at Google.

FTPOnline: What application trends brought the Ajax design approach to the level of popularity it has achieved? Are we going to be writing more Ajax applications in the future?

Rademacher: We first saw this on Google Suggest. It was a small feature and experimental, but you didn't have to do a page reload to get information. Then there was GMail and Google Maps. Since then, there have been a ton of applications. This is a good thing.


Galbraith: People are commoditizing Ajaxian features. I think that's uncontroversial. People have been frustrated with Web applications for a long time. I think Ajax is a future. The question is what the term means. For us, we can call Ajax the techniques behind building highly interactive Web sites. It represents the future of Web development.

FTPOnline: Here are the results of our first survey (on what stage the audience is at on Ajax development), and they are very interesting. 26 percent are actively developing Ajax applications, while 22 percent are starting their first project. In addition, 36 percent will begin a project in the next six months. Would anyone like to address these results?

Peachey: These numbers are in line with what we see. There are a large number of people coming forward, and a smaller number who are actively developing. In many cases, a there are Skunk Works projects going on as a proof of concept.

Sahil: For the 17 percent who have no current plans, get a haircut. This is the future. You need to take advantage of this.

Dietzen: It's important to look at where Ajax can deliver value. Look at Amazon One-Click. There are places where Ajax can add to the user experience, but it shouldn't be done gratuitously.

Pleiter: We talked to a lot of people on what technology to use. We see a lot of people experimenting right now. In the market, there is a big demand for clarification of key technologies and requirements.

Galbraith: User experience is so key. In addition to confusion, developers want concrete guidelines on what to use. When we polled users on our site, everybody wanted to see user experience content. There has only been a little content on user experience.

FTPOnline: It's interesting that we're focusing on user experience. I have a couple questions from the audience on that topic. One asks, how you can work with Ajax to let a blind user know the page has changed? Is this a problem that needs to be solved?

Rademacher: It is a problem. I've not seen a great solution. Pages are manipulated in a weird way. Probably today you have to design a separate interface geared toward accessibility. Right now browser technologies are geared toward the past generation.

Dietzen: I see another approach. Ajax can also be overlaid on top of HTML, although this limits Ajax and constrains the user experience.

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