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June 19, 2007 / Bob Black

AJAX

Ajax (also known as AJAX), shorthand for “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML“, is a development technique for creating interactive web applications. The intent is to make web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user requests a change. This is intended to increase the web page’s interactivity, speed, and usability.

– Wikipedia

No one wants to give Microsoft credit for it, but they invented AJAX. Years ago, when ASP was in its infancy, I played around with a framework Microsoft had put together called Remote Scripting. In a nutshell, Remote Scripting consisted of a JAVA applet that exposed a few methods you could call from client-side Javascript to return string values from the server. In other words, AJAX, albeit very simple.

I thought it was the coolest thing since the inception of the common gateway interface, even though the browser DOMs of the day just weren’t capable enough to really do supercalifragilistic stuff like fading elements in and out, gliding, sliding, and other eye candy.

And then came IE 5, which included the XMLHttpRequest object, allowing developers everywhere to dynamically request XML from a web server (via Javascript calls) and format and display the results dynamically in a web page. In IE 6, the XMLHttpRequest object was converted from a scriptable COM object into a component of the browser itself. And AJAX became easy.

The XMLHttpRequest object is AJAX. There’s a W3C standard that most popular web browsers have adopted that has made AJAX universal – the short list of browsers that have implemented XMLHttpRequest includes Firefox (from Mozilla 1.0), Apple Safari (1.2 and up), Konqueror, Opera (8.0 and up) and iCab. And today’s browsers are application development platforms in themselves, with support for all the sliding, gliding, eye candy you can code.

But to make it even easier to code AJAX, Microsoft has released their AJAX (previously ATLAS) toolkit for .Net 2.0, with not only extraordinary AJAX support built-in, but also a framework of gorgeous sliding and gliding effects that any design challenged coder can easily take advantage of.

And as of last month (May 2007), you can download Microsoft Futures, a collection of ASP.NET and Silverlight controls for developing crazy-cool applications.

I’m lovin’ it. Just lovin’ it.

I’m such a Microsoft fan boy.

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