What IS AJAX -- And Why Is It Important?

Examples like Google Maps and Google Suggest demonstrate the importance of AJAX -- and why it's more than just a fad.

Critics (there are always critics: ignore them at your peril) will say that AJAX is nothing new. They will be right. Javascript has been around for years and the XMLHttpRequest tool that provides the whizz-bang application-style updates to a page has been around along with it. But they're missing the point: it's only in the last couple of years that last-mile bandwidth (read: ADSL) and raw processing power have made browser-based Java & Javascript applications that AJAX enables possible. Google maps works real sweet, but 3.5 years ago it would have crawled across your browser like a lead slug.

So what is AJAX and how do you get involved in it? The short answer is: scroll to the bottom of this piece and click the links. The slightly-longer answer is: AJAX isn't a single new thing, it's several things working together: XHTML and CSS at the front end, and the Document Object Model for dynamic stuff; XML and XSLT for data interchange and manipulation using; and XMLHttpRequest for asynchronous data retrieval. With JavaScript binding everything together, you have what's commonly known as AJAX.

Getting involved therefore means learning one or all of these -- and teaming up with others who know them. Working on the Web is increasingly less about delivering flat content skeletons and more about deliving innovative applications and environments for collaboration. You have been warned.


Ajax -- A New Approach to Web Applications:
The Ajaxian:
Del.icio.us Ajax:

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