Tuesday, June 28, 2005

This Just In: AJAX Is Important

Looks like Microsoft is getting on the AJAX bandwagon, whether they like it or not. Scoble mentions a Microsoft Javascript library named ATLAS. CNET, Microsoft Watch and Information Week posted articles about ATLAS. Charles Fitzgerald is, again, the MS guy involved. Reading the articles, I can't tell if Fitzgerald is excited about ATLAS/AJAX or just feels like its something MS needed to do to stay relevant in web development. Some quotes:

"People who do (AJAX development) are rocket scientists," Fitzgerald said. "In some ways, this papers over the mess that is JavaScript development. It's easy-to-build 'spaghetti' code." [CNET]
"Microsoft is really the only company that spans the continuum, from the simplest Web client through he smartest client," said Fitzgerald. [Microsoft Watch]
"We just needed the clever name" – like Ajax, Fitzgerald said, to explain the various things that developers have been able to do for almost a decade with Microsoft technologies. [Microsoft Watch]
Using Atlas, developers will be able to write Ajax apps that contain pre-written code to smooth over technical distinctions between Web browsers, and debug those apps with Microsoft-branded tools, says Charles Fitzgerald, a general manager at Microsoft. Using Ajax today, he says, "is a little bit of a hack." [Information Week]

Here is what I think:

  1. Microsoft invented the technologies now called AJAX, but moved away from browser based clients in favor of Windows based clients (Smart, Rich, Thick, Fat or otherwise).
  2. The world of web development is quickly moving toward AJAX-style development. Microsoft is late and needs to make some mindshare.
  3. Microsoft is a development tool vendor. They sell tools to make development easier, therefore, current AJAX development must be hard (rocket scientists need only apply) and messy.

Seems to me that many AJAX toolkits already exist. Many web applications are incorporating AJAX very quickly. Examples of AJAX range from simple enhancements to full blown applications, implemented by mere mortals.

This move does not seem in sync with Microsoft's .NET/WebForms/Smart Client agenda. Therefore, I question whether their heart is in the initiative. On the other hand, Microsoft's new RSS initiative (also connected to Fitzgerald) seems inline with current company agendas and has good backing inside and outside the company.

Update: Scott Isaacs of MSN Spaces and Scott Guthrie of ASP.NET have some good technical posts on AJAX.


At 2:11 PM, Blogger david said...

"Microsoft is late and needs to make some mindshare."

Seems like this is all they've been doing in the last year.

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they're doing it because they can, and because there clearly is a need for it. Writing "code" in Java Script really is a hell of a mess, and if Ajax based technology is going to be lifted to the next level, there's a need for a mid-layer that shields the developers from having to deal with the sheer messiness of Java Script + HTML.


At 4:10 PM, Blogger Mark Finkle said...

I am glad Microsoft is embracing AJAX and the browser (again). I am just remembering that they stopped innovating web technologies before when browser apps started to rival desktop apps. I am not ready to dive into the Koolaid yet.

Also, I take issue with the notion that writing DHTML/Javascript is messy. The way I see it, if you write messy Javascript, you write messy code period. And as to dealing with cross browser scripting problems, how is this different from cross platform desktop problems? Developers can deal with it.

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