When Tim Berners-Lee crafted the first proposal for the World Wide Web in 1990, the idea was fairly simple: to create a "web" of interconnected information using hypertext and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). The ability to link disparate documents from all around the world held huge potential for scholarly endeavors, where people would be able to access referenced material almost instantly. Indeed, the first version of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) featured little more than formatting and linking commands, a platform not for building rich interactive software but rather for sharing the kinds of textual and illustrative information that dominated the late age of print. It was from these static web pages that the Web grew.
As the Web evolved, businesses soon saw potential in the ability to distribute information about products and services to the masses. The next generation of the Web saw an increased ability to format and display information as HTML also evolved to meet the needs and match the expectations of these new media-savvy users. But a small company called Netscape would soon be ready to push the evolution of the Web forward at a much faster pace.
While this was the first Ajax communication model, another technological advance was just around the corner.
DHTML never made it to a standards body, although Microsoft's influence would be felt strongly with the introduction of the Document Object Model (DOM) as the centerpiece of the standards effort. Unlike DHTML, which sought only to modify sections of a web page, the DOM had a more ambitious purpose: to provide a structure for an entire web page. The manipulation of that structure would then allow DHTML-like modifications to the page. This was the next step forward for Ajax.
Although the hidden frame technique became incredibly popular, it had a downside — one had to plan ahead of time and write a frameset anticipating the usage of hidden frames. When the <iframe/> element was introduced as an official part HTML 4.0 in 1997, it represented another significant step in the evolution of the Web.
The browser developers at Microsoft must have realized the popularity of the hidden frame technique and the newer hidden iframe technique, because they decided to provide developers with a better tool for client-server interaction. That tool came in the form of an ActiveX object called XMLHttp, introduced in 2001.
With popularity mounting, developers at the open source Mozilla project began their own port of XMLHttp. Instead of allowing access to ActiveX, the Mozilla developers replicated the object's principal methods and properties in a native browser objectXMLHttpRequest. With both of the major browsers supporting some form of XMLHttp, the development of Ajax-type interfaces really took off and forced the fringe browsers, Opera and Safari, to support some form of XMLHttp as well (both chose to do so natively with an XMLHttpRequest object, mimicking Mozilla).