Saturday, February 04, 2006

IBM Rounds Up Support For 'Standard' Ajax Environment

Source: InformationWeek

Ajax is becoming popular for building interactive Web applications, so much so that a group of vendors is trying to ensure it gets implemented uniformly.

Ajax is shorthand for asynchronous JavaScript and XML, a combination of standard technologies that allows a Web application to interact with a user without constantly downloading HTML pages.

With Ajax, active parts of the page seek more data from an Internet server or validate data entered by a user, without requiring the user to stare at an hourglass symbol as the page goes back to a server. Google Maps is based on Ajax. The map fills out in the direction of the user's cursor movement because Ajax is detecting the movement and downloading more data from the map server, without the user specifically requesting it.

Google had to invest heavily to get Maps to perform consistently across different browser windows. That's why Google and others backed IBM last week when it announced it was donating software that will allow developers to work with Ajax on the Eclipse programmer's workbench. In effect, code developed with Rico, Dojo, or Zimbra, three popular Ajax toolkits, can be imported into Eclipse, run there for review and inspection purposes, debugged, and made ready as part of a larger Web application.

IBM's move is called Open Ajax and it's backed by BEA Systems, Borland Software, Google, Laszlo Systems, Openwave Systems, Oracle, Mozilla, Novell, Red Hat, Yahoo, Zend Technologies, and Zimbra. The "open" nomenclature, often used with open-source code standards, is not an exact fit, since Ajax is already based on existing standards for JavaScript (set by the European standards body, ECMA) and XML.

But as David Temkin, CTO of Laszlo Systems says, "While Ajax is based on standards, the toolkits themselves are implemented differently." What IBM has done is generate a framework or runtime environment for Eclipse that can take the output from recognized toolkits, run it inside Eclipse, and debug it there.

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