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Confusion and Controversy

Despite the popularity of the term Ajax, it has been met with its fair share of dissenters and controversy. Some believe that Ajax is an aberration of what the Web was moving toward before Ajax entered the picture. The proponents of semantic HTML design, accessibility, and the separation of content and presentation were gaining ground and acceptance among web developers, and some believe that the popularity of Ajax has pushed that movement into the background. The belief of these detractors is that Ajax promotes creating presentation within JavaScript, thus turning it into a messy mix similar to the early days of server-side scripting. Many believe that accessibility will suffer if more developers turn to Ajax solutions.

Others have spent a significant amount of time dissecting Garrett's article and disproving several assumptions that he makes. For instance, the article mentions using XML and XMLHttp repeatedly as being the core of the Ajax model, but many of the examples he lists don't use them. Gmail and Google Maps don't use either of these technologies; Google Suggest uses only XMLHttp and uses JavaScript arrays instead of XML for data exchange. Critics also point out that the technical explanation of Ajax in the article is completely misleading, citing several technologies that are not only unnecessary (such as XML and XMLHttp) but unlikely to be used in many cases (such as XSLT).

Another big argument surrounding Ajax and Garrett's Adaptive Path article is that it's merely a new name for a technique that has already been used for some time. Although this type of data retrieval could be enacted in Netscape Navigator 2.0, it really became more prominent in 2001–2002, especially with the publication of an article on Apple's Developer Connection site entitled, "Remote Scripting With IFRAME" (available at http://developer.apple.com/internet/webcontent/iframe.html). This article is widely believed to be the first mainstream article published on Ajax-like methodologies. The term remote scripting never caught on with quite the staying power as Ajax.

Still others scoff at the term Ajax and Garrett's article, believing that its creation was little more than a marketing gimmick for Garrett's company, Adaptive Path, LLC. Some believe that creating a name for a technique that already existed is disingenuous and a clear sign of ill intent. Regardless of this and other controversies surrounding Ajax, the approach now has a name that developers are quickly becoming familiar with, and with that comes a need for a deeper understanding and explanation so that it may be used in the best possible ways.


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