Web Development

That Whole AJAX Thing

After getting my mail today, I was happy to see two of my favorite groups of people together at last: InfoWorld and 37Signals. In the current issue, Infoworld has a really good article titled The Browser Reloaded, which is all about the newest Big Thing in web development: AJAX. In it, they interview several of the guys from 37Signals, one of the most forward-thinking web design/web application firms in existance today (and also a big user of AJAX).

So, what exactly is AJAX? If you’re a user of Gmail or Google Maps, you’ve already witnessed its power, most likely without even knowning it. AJAX is a group of technologies that lets you send requests for maps, receive new email, etc., without making your browser reload a whole new webpage. Instead, just sections of the page update and change. This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is. For years, developers have been stuck within the inflexible walls of web browser, but AJAX allows them to create web applications that act more like desktop applications.

The interesting thing is that the technologies behind AJAX have been around for at least several years now. It was previously known by its techno geek name: XMLHttpRequest – not very catchy if you ask me. Then, in an essay earlier this year, a man named Jesse James Garrett from Adaptive Path coined the name AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) to describe the technologies involved. Suddenly, there was an easy way to talk about it and a cool name to call it. Goes to show that marketing does matter, at least to some extent.