Deshan’s got this Russian Roulette browser plugin called Stumble. When I say browser I mean Firefox cause it has plugins and doesn’t have VD like Internet Explorer. Anyways, Stumble lets you click a button and it takes you to a random (rated by people) website. It’s very addictive, we were clicking around for a while. We ended up on this one site that showed a family tree of programming languages, shit, bear with me, it’s not that bad. Apparently the mother of all beasts is FORTRAN. What I found interesting was that almost all of the spawn of FORTRAN can be plugged into AJAX, which is that new new shit. AJAX is the mother of invention I tell you. The amount of fun stuff you can do with it is amazing. Web applications are starting to look more and more like real software. For examples, all of Google’s new stuff uses AJAX.
I’ve been raving about this AJAX for a while, probably to the boredom of many a casual reader. However, sites like, Google (Satellite!) Maps, Google Groups, Gmail, Flickr, Basecamp, and Gregarius are *not* boring. Any time you interact with a webpage without having to reload, it’s probably AJAX.
The whole point of AJAX is that it makes the average user interaction faster and, well, sexier. Nowadays when you interact with a webpage it is slow and annoying. For example, when you write a comment here you send a message to the server, leave the page you’re on, and then the server sends you a brand new page. It’s like talking to someone with Alzheimers. Instead of little interactions, you have to repeat yourself and get the entire page reserved. AJAX, on the other hand, sets up a little demon on your computer. The demon sends the Server a request for the little bit of info you want and reloads only that part of the page. If I had AJAX comments you could leave a comment, see a little [processing…] animation, and then your comment would appear on the page. You’d never have to leave this page, and things would go much faster.
For Google Groups, that means that whenever I reply to a post I just click the ‘Reply’ button, a form opens on the same page, I submit the form, and then what I wrote appears. On that same page. On Gmail I can star my email, attach multiple files, etc, without wasting time reloading. Google Maps is the coolest. I can search for pizza columbus ohio and it gives me all the pizza places on a map. I can then click on each icon and instantly pop-up the address and phone number. The point is instantly. I never have to load a new page. The Adaptive Path article describes it better, if you’re uber-interested follow the links therein. I just put Google in the title so people would read this.
Google is making a huge investment in developing the Ajax approach. All of the major products Google has introduced over the last year – Orkut, Gmail, the latest beta version of Google Groups, Google Suggest, and Google Maps – are Ajax applications. (For more on the technical nuts and bolts of these Ajax implementations, check out these excellent analyses of Gmail, Google Suggest, and Google Maps.) Others are following suit: many of the features that people love in Flickr depend on Ajax, and Amazon’s A9.com search engine applies similar techniques.
For reference, AJAX stands for *Asynchronous Java and XML*. What it basically does is setup a little demon that converts the Spawn of FORTRAN to Java, which can run on your PC. That’s the asynchronous part. XML is the kind of data the server gives it, eXtensible Markup Language. Basically data that has tags so that you can group it. If you click the XML button at the top of this site you can see what it looks like. You’re not supposed to read it, but if you give that link to a FeedReader you can read this site on your desktop, like getting email. Kottu runs on XML, it takes the XML from over 50 Sri Lankan blogs now and aggregates them. XML and AJAX are changing the game, for the better.
* Adaptive Path has an excellent description of AJAX, with pictures.
* Zollage is a quick and stupid demo of AJAX, involving Clint Eastwood’s face and Sesame Street merchandise from Amazon. If you click the items that make up his face it’ll query the Amazon data instantly.