Skip to main content

Will Ajax clean-up?

The term AJAX, which stands for "Asynchronous JavaScript and XML,” was first coined by James Jesses Garrett of Adaptive Path in an essay (opens in new tab) earlier this year. Although Garrett describes Ajax as a “fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web”, it is not in fact a new technology, but rather it is a case of bringing together existing web technologies such as XML, XHTML, DOM, JavaScript, CSS and XMLHttpRequest and using them in new ways.

AJAX has come to prominence from its use on sites such as Flickr (opens in new tab), instant messaging tool Meebo (opens in new tab) and perhaps most noticeably in Google maps (opens in new tab). Click on the map, move around and zoom in on your home town and you’ll notice the page doesn’t refresh on each click but instead updates in real time. In effect, AJAX eliminates the stop-start nature of the web to bring a more desktop-style feel to the user experience.

In the words of Garrett it “allows the user’s interaction with the application to happen asynchronously — independent of communication with the server. So the user is never staring at a blank browser window and an hourglass icon, waiting around for the server to do something”.

Google, Meebo and Flickr are great examples of AJAX working in the consumer space to improve the user experience but others are excited by the impact longer term impact (opens in new tab)AJAX could have on the desktop software market. With Google sniffing around this market, Microsoft’s announcement last week about its plans for Windows Live and Office Live, is recognition of the web’s growing importance and ability to deliver services that used to reside on the desktop.

This could explain why so-called AJAX specialist companies are currently proving hot property for venture capitalists. One of these companies, messaging company, Zimbra (opens in new tab) has just announced $16 million in funding despite their CEO admitting in an article (opens in new tab) by the Wall Street Journal that when he founded the company "I really thought that AJAX was just a bathroom cleaner."

A candid admission but also a warning that, although AJAX is driving some innovative changes on the, Web 2.0 could become Dotcom Bubble 2.0 and we all know what happens after a bubble and it ain’t pretty.