The Year of AJAX
by Kito D. Mann
March 16, 2006
Why is DHTMLI mean, AJAXso popular now? There are a plethora of different opinions on this topic, but I think the answer is pretty simple. First of all, people are sick of the limitations of browser-based user interfaces, especially for Intranet applications. At first, it was cool and hip to use new technologies and avoid deployment nightmares, but people have finally realized that it might be nice to have more than a few basic widgets to work with. Second, developers love Firefox. It's the first version of Mozilla to truly take off, so much so that Microsoft is releasing an extra update to IE just to compete. However, Mozilla has supported the XmlHttpRequest object since 1.0. In other words, AJAX is fully supported by all browsers (Apple Safari and Opera added support recently).
The immense interest in AJAX, since it was originally coined by Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path in February 2005, makes it probably the number one buzzword of 2005. So far this year we've seen several AJAX books, AJAX Web sites (I highly recommend www.ajaxian.com , run by Ben Galbraith and Dion Alamer, coauthors of the forthcoming book Pragmatic Ajax [Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2006]), and of course an endless supply of AJAX frameworks.
The bottom line is that AJAX is here to stay, and it's great to see that the Web has quickly realized a powerful, (sometimes) backwards-compatible evolutionary path. Fortunately, the Java ecosystem is dynamic enough to rapidly support new technologies, and you can use your existing Web framework with different AJAX frameworks.
Component-based Web frameworks such as JSF give you the best of both worlds: components that have both server-side and client-side representations, which means that developers are shielded from the complexities of AJAX and use the same event-oriented programming model whether the components are displaying AJAX code; WML; XUL; or plain vanilla HTML.
AJAX is a powerful way to use a set of ubiquitous technologies, and it's here to stay (although, I'm not convinced the buzzword will be immortal). For Java developers, architects, and managers, the key is to make the best decision for the project at hand. More often than not doing so means using frameworks, either on the client, the server, or, better yet, both. The most important rule, however, is to remember that any technology should be used only where appropriate: every single Web application doesn't need to be "ajaxified," and those that can benefit from AJAX may be fine with just a few "ajaxian" features.
About the Author
Kito D. Mann is editor-in-chief of JSF Central, principal consultant at Virtua Inc., and author of JavaServer Faces in Action (Manning, 2005).
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