Friday, September 16th, 2005

Rails Ajaxians hit out at Microsoft Atlas

Category: .NET, Editorial, Prototype, Ruby

The PDC love parade announced Microsoft Atlas. Thomas Fuchs has hit out with an auto completion comparison between Atlas and his script.aculo.us component:

First off, looking at their code, they were certainly a bit inspired by my code (and also by Sam’s code). I can see it’s difficult to give credit, but hey, you know, that sucks.

To use Atlas auto-completion, you need to wade through a 23-page long document (warning again, Word format), while you can use the script.aculo.us control with two lines of code in Ruby on Rails.

The codebase is about the same size as the script.aculo.us control, but doesn’t do a lot of things (please correct me if I’m wrong):

  • No CSS-based styling
  • Using cursor keys you can’t use cursor down at the end of a list
    to go back to the top (same with cursor up at the start of the list)
  • No fade-in/fade-out effects (no wonder, as their “Adding further UI Enahncements” (sic!) section just lists “1. coming soon, 2. coming soon”)
  • No tokenizing (more than one entry being auto-completed)
  • No local completion (using a prepared JavaScript array)

P.S. Did I say that script.aculo.us auto completion fixes the dreaded Internet Explorer “windowed controls” bug, while theirs doesn’t?

David Heinemeier Hansson (Rails founder) then also hits out:

While Microsoft may have gotten the ball rolling back in the day, they certainly can’t keep up with it any more. At PDC they announced Atlas: The Ajax framework destined to put Microsoft back in the game. But surely they didn’t put their sharp shooters on the target. Atlas is a late, verbose, buggy, and under-whelming stab at catching up to yesterday.

He also linked to Sam Stephenson (of Prototype) having a little rant of his own:

The new Atlas Ajax framework from Microsoft features a $() function, lifted wholesale from Prototype where it debuted in March with Rails 0.10.

I couldn’t find mention of its origin anywhere on the Atlas site. Fancy that! The Atlas team should take a cue from David Flanagan, author of O’Reilly’s JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, who politely asked if he could include $() in the next edition of his book.

Ouch.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:51 am
5 Comments

+++--
3.9 rating from 16 votes

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RE: CSS Styling

Maybe the drop down demo implementation didn’t have CSS styling, but Atlas is definitely 100% capable of using CSS styling, so no worries there.

RE: $()

It’s not like they were claiming they invented it. In fact, anyone in the sessions could tell you, they barely even talked about the core JavaScript APIs at all. In fact, I only saw $() in one piece of code and was kinda baffled that in most of the samples they were still using the explicit document.getElementById. Mostly they were just showing how to leverage the type system they’ve put together as well as the XML scripting language.

Comment by Drew Marsh — September 16, 2005

The comments from the prototype and scriptlicious crowd reflect amateurism and a lack of deeper knowledge. But what would you expect from a mostly non Microsoft set of people, who again have the privilege to open up a can of childish Microsoft bashing.

I wonder who is amazed with scriptlicious. Not only is the code awfull and slow, not to mention this stuff is so old. These types of effects were abandoned to DynamicDrive for those with strong affection.

Comment by M. Schopman — September 17, 2005

That’s pretty harsh given these “mostly non Microsoft set of people” pioneered and released open source functionality to make our lives a little bit better, a little bit easier, for free, while Microsoft, late as usual, attempts yet another buggy, proprietary and ultimately commercial solution. You can “nice job Brownie” MS to your hearts content but the fact is we reboot MS products on a regular basis and know better.

Comment by Michael Appelmans — September 19, 2005

Drew, I have serious doubts you’ve ever even looked at prototype.js or the script.aculo.us libraries. Slow and “awful code” are not exactly labels I’ve ever seen applied before. In fact, I seriously doubt there are very many programmers working with MS products (including myself) who really have a deep enough understanding of javascript as a prototype based language (not referencing the library of the same name) to even come close to their work.

I’ve certainly never seen it anyways.

I would be _very_ curious to see what you might consider “good”.

Comment by Sam — October 24, 2005

I agree with Sam in the fact that many MS programmers seem to be completely unaware of how JavaScript can be leveraged to give the client a better experience.

In my experience, the problem with most 3rd party OR MS components is that rather than embedding their JS in an external script file so it gets cached locally they insist on rendering the script inline on the page, which is both messy and performs worse. In addition, most of their web components I’ve seen appear to generate 3 times more HTML than is actually required.

Prototype.js et al in my opinion are good tools for people who know little about JS scripting, but for those of us that do, we can normally come up with a shared library in a file about 1/100 of the size!

Comment by GHJ — July 9, 2007

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