if you Know AJAX or Flash…

From an Introduction to AJAX by Brett McLaughlin:

Five years ago, if you didn’t know XML, you were the ugly duckling whom nobody talked to. Eighteen months ago, Ruby came into the limelight and programmers who didn’t know what was going on with Ruby weren’t welcome at the water cooler. Today, if you want to get into the latest technology rage, Ajax is where it’s at.

However, Ajax is far more than just a fad; it’s a powerful approach to building Web sites and it’s not nearly as hard to learn as an entire new language.

I was looking for some GUI toolkits for Python/Ruby over the weekend to do a simple demo of a streaming database application. After looking at a bunch of them, I was wondering why I cannot use an XForms instead. I have not worked with XForms before. But by Googling around, I found that there is an effort going on to tie other scripting languages like Python/Ruby to XUL. I know that using XML for user interface is going to be future (Microsoft’s efforts in this area with XAML is another major influencer). I was also doing some thinking on how all this ties with AJAX. So when I found a link to this article by Kurt Cagle, I immediately put aside everything else and started reading it.

The state of the art in 2006 can be described in four letters A-J-A-X. If you understand AJAX, you have essentially written your meal ticket for the next couple of years. Indeed, right now we are in that state of affairs that I had a feeling we’d be facing right now – there’s a huge demand for AJAX programmers, and a surprising dearth of skilled practitioners. Given that AJAX is only Javascript, XML and a bit of socket programming, you’d think that this demand should have been filled pretty readily … but its not really all that simple. AJAX programming represents a fairly radical jump if you’re used to traditional server-side applications, though if you were playing with Macromedia Director or Flash nearly a decade ago, you’d intrinsically recognize what’s going on here (indeed, note to hiring managers – get good Flash programmers if you’re looking for people who understand AJAX … they’ve been doing it for years and years).

There are several interesting points Kurt makes in this article.

– Traces increasing demand for AJAX skill sets and describes a bit the model of AJAX programming

– Talks about parallels with Flash and how Flash developers already have the right model for leaping into this space

– Identifies some of the strengths and limitations of JavaScript as one of the core components of AJAX

– Shows us how XForms may be a better model to build client side interactive applications

Kurt got my attention with this article. I am going to play around with Firefox and XForms and see what it takes to build a couple of simple applications.

The combination of XForms, XHTML, CSS, SVG, XBL-like bindings and the like can make for a wide variety of applications. Certainly, XForms could easily replace tabular presentation forms, but could just as easily be used for building rich slide-show applications, multipane websites (complete with tabs, side tabs, button sets and related controls), multipage wizards, even game environments.

It (XForms) can help tame some of the thornier AJAX programming issues, and I suspect in the end will represent the next major leap in web technologies.

As the user interaction model evolves, it will be interesting to see how it co-evolves with the server interaction model (through ws-lite or webservices).

3 thoughts on “if you Know AJAX or Flash…”

  1. I’ve been noticing that ajax seems to be central to mashups… although I think ajax is a great potentially very powerful user driven technology I also think it is a seperate subject than mashups which are simply driven by public apis and open content… Some of the best mash’s will be the simplest…

  2. Good point. AJAX made mashups more visible to the world. But mashups without any UI are important too for lots of applications.

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