Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Why Ajax Matters Now
His editorial is split in two pieces.
Yes, if… to Yes
In the earliest days of the Web, designers chafed against the constraints of the medium. The entire interaction model of the Web was rooted in its heritage as a hypertext system: click the link, request the document, wait for the server to respond. Any designer who asked if the basic call-and-response interaction model of the Web could be defied was met with the flat answer “No.”
Eventually, with the evolution of browser technology, that “No” became a “Yes, if…” Yes, if the user has the right browser and the right operating system. Yes, if the user’s connection is fast enough. Yes, if the user has the right plug-in or the right runtime.
For some designers working in some environments, “Yes, if…” was good enough. But for the overwhelming majority of designers, the caveats and restrictions were simply too great. So they returned to the task of making the Web work the best it could within the hypertext interaction model, developing new conventions for Web interaction that allowed their applications to reach audiences who never would have attempted to use desktop applications designed for the same tasks.
The rise of Ajax represents the new and widening recognition that the days of “Yes, if…” are numbered. It’s analogous to the realization we had a couple of years ago, when it became apparent that maturing browser support for CSS and XHTML would finally allow designers the flexibility and ease of maintenance the Web had always promised but never quite delivered. In both cases, the technologies aren’t new; what’s new is our ability to make the most of them on the broadest possible scale.
Proprietary solutions are never as compelling for Web designers as open standards are. Web designers are passionate about the Web as a medium, and that medium doesn’t belong to any technology provider.
It’s something that all of us, working together, are helping to build. For many Web designers and developers, crafting a new medium is what attracted them to the Web, and what keeps them engaged with the Web regardless of the ebb and flow of stock markets. Technologies that don’t work on a Web-wide scale are, by definition, not participants in this process.
What’s the difference between Oddpost and Gmail? One followed desktop interaction conventions, required a particular browser and a particular operating system, and gained a cult following. The other came along four years later, followed Web interaction conventions, worked across all modern browsers – and transformed its entire category. Some might argue that Oddpost is the more sophisticated solution. But Gmail is part of the larger Web in a way that Oddpost never could have been.
Gmail demonstrated to the entire industry that we don’t have to compromise anymore.
How important are open standards to you guys? Do you just want something to work well, or do you truly need the openness? (Atlas vs. Dojo jk.)
Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:14 pm