Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

OpenAjax Alliance Update

Category: Articles

Coach Wei of NexaWeb has written up a detailed entry on the OpenAjax Alliance and Addressing Key Challenges for Ajax Adoption.

He reports on the recent face to face meeting. The OpenAjax alliance now has a steering committee consisting of Alex Russell (Dojo/SitePen), Mike Milinkovich, David Boloker(IBM), Coach Wei (Nexaweb), Kevin Hakman (Tibco), Mike Pinette (Zend) and Scott Dietzen (Zimbra).

He goes on to talk about confusion with Ajax:

I think the biggest adoption hurdle for Ajax has nothing to do with technology. The biggest adoption hurdle is the massive confusion going on right now. Ajax is not the solution to all problems. There are different levels of adoption of Ajax (borrowing terms from Ray Valdes from Gartner: snippet, widget, toolkit/client-side framework and client/server integrated framework). Different Ajax solutions are for different levels of adoption, etc. – I personally strongly recommend a web 2.0 reference architecture to customers because they need something like this to understand the landscape and pick the right solutions.

And, finishes with key technical issues as he sees them:

  1. Performance: Some browsers, in particular, Internet Explorer, do not good a good job at processing Ajax code. Can we figure out a way to influence these browser vendors to fix some of these issues?
  2. Ajax toolkit footprint. A lot of Ajax toolkits are actually fairly big, some times over one megabytes. The need to download megabytes of JavaScript is not helpful for user adoption. Combining multiple toolkits will only make this issue worse. How can this issue be addressed?
  3. Security: There are lot of fuzz about Ajax being not “secure”, 95% of which is FUD. How can we educate the market and customers that Ajax itself does not necessarily impose new security issues? Further, if there are real security concerns, what are they? How can we collectively address them?
  4. Offline and Mobile Ajax: Mobile computing is important from an OpenAjax Alliance point of view, but is Mobile Ajax realistic now? What should we do with Mobile Ajax? (BTW, Alex Russell has an excellent blog on this subject) Talking about mobile Ajax, shouldn’t we address offline Ajax first? Shouldn’t we try to make sure Ajax work well on desktop first?
  5. Development and Maintenance Difficulties with Ajax: What should we do to make Ajax accessible to typical application developers, beyond these highly skilled architects?

    Writing distributed application has always been hard. Ajax, given its high dependency on browsers, browser versions and operating systems, the mix of many different technologies (CSS, DHTML, JavaScript, DOM API, etc), the difficulty of maintaining large amount of JavaScript code and the lack of development tools, has been a luxury of the gifted few so far. While companies like Google and Yahoo can afford to hire the best engineers to build amazing applications using Ajax and have truly opened the eyes of the mass, typical enterprises do not have the capability to do so.

    I personally believe if Ajax does not extend to the reach of typical application developers, it will remain a luxury for the gifted few and will never achieve wide enterprise adoption. The mission of OpenAjax Alliance is to advance enterprise adoption of Ajax while preserving the open value of the web. If we, as an industry, do not address the development and maintenance challenges of Ajax, we will fail in our mission.

    On the other side, I don’t necessarily think OpenAjax Alliance is the only channel to solve the Ajax development and maintenance challenge. There are already some really good efforts going on now in the industry. The efforts include both tooling and runtime offerings:

    • The ATF Project at Eclipse Foundation is going to be a solid IDE for writing Ajax applications. I was very impressed by the talk given by Robert Goodman from IBM on Eclipse ATF at AjaxWorld Conference.
    • Apache XAP targets at solving the same problem from a programming model and runtime perspective (by using declarative Ajax to minimize the coding effort required by developers);
    • Speaking of my company, Nexaweb, we have been working with Eclipse ATF developers in building a visual IDE for Ajax. I think it will be very cool and will bring Ajax to the reach of normal application developers.  There are probably a few other vendors trying the similar effort as well – though I don’t know any at the moment.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 8:18 am
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Performance seems to the biggest issue.

Comment by R Bayer — October 10, 2006

On library size:
– support for Content-Encoding: bzip2 would make almost a 25% difference for large JS libraries.
– large frameworks should download in the background while showing basic content to users, such as a login or splash page. We do this at smartclient.com: note that the page loads immediately, and a few seconds later an “Explore” button appears

On performance:
– actually, at the deepest level of optimization, you can make IE go faster than Firefox. But it is true that it takes years of analysis and tuning before this becomes clear

Comment by Charles Kendrick — October 10, 2006

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