Thursday, June 2nd, 2005

Adam Bosworth: Ajax reconsidered

Category: Ajax, Editorial

Adam Bosworth (now of Google, formerly of Microsoft, BEA, and others) has written about reconsidering Ajax.

He follows along with the many others wondering “why now?”.

He has features that he thinks we really need:

First, printing is still hard. The browser has never grown up to enable the page author to easily describe an alternate layout for printing which is a shame. Why isn’t there an “HTML” for printing which can describe rotation, freeze column or row headers, and so on?

Secondly, the browser isn’t a good listener to external events. If you want to build an application, for example, to show you instantly when someone bids or a price changes, it is hard. You can poll, but poll too frequently and the application starts to feel sluggish and it isn’t easy to do this. What you really want is an event driven model where in addition to the events like typing the page can describe events like an XMPP message or a VOIP request or a data-changed post for an ATOM feed.

Third, if you want the application to run offline, you are essentially out of luck. I’ve written about this at length before in this blog and don’t need to repeat what is required in detail. To summarize what I said earlier, a local cache, a smart template model, and a synchronization protocol are required to build applications that run equally well connected and disconnected and the way that the Blackberry works is a role model for all of us here.

and finishes with a prediction:

What I predict will drive this change is the advent of truly mobile computing on mobile devices. This is going to force the game to change. It is way too expensive to build solutions for mobile on J2ME and often too poor a customer experience when they are built using WAP (except for super simple things). I think that we’re going to rethink browsing around a model which has pub/sub, events, and caching built in and which doesn’t have the problems with re-layout. More on this in a subsequent post.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 1:38 pm
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It seems to me that Mr. Bosworth just isn’t deep enough into this stuff to know how close we are to solving these things. The promised (and soon-to-be-delivered) Flash-to-JS bridge gives us “offline operation” for many applications by providing a big enough cache to do something interesting with. Publish-subscribe low-latency communication can already be done with mod_pubsub. Printing is still a problem, but I think even that is surmountable.

Comment by Alex Russell — June 6, 2005

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