AJAX is Javascript Web Services

So how do you code an AJAX Web page?,” by Edmond Woychowsky, ComputerWorld, 3 August 2006, http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=printArticleBasic&articleId=9002170 (from Digg.

A short break from my recent posts on Lebanon and Travel, to bring out the annoyed geek. I previously taught a 400-level class in PHP that focused on building and consuming web services. The technology is good and useful, but constant re-brandings can leave many out in the cold. Take, for example, the absurdly meaning-destroying acronym AJAX, for Asynchronous Javascript and XML. Sure it gets the fact it’s written, on the client side, in Javascript OK, but what about the other two words. “Asynchronous” in what sense? As Javascript Web Services (*cough* AJAX *cough*) gets data as its requested, it is more synchronous than standard web applications. And sure web services are enclosed in XML — but so is XHTML, the language of many common web sites.

Giving a stable technology a mystifying acronym may help on the marketing angle

An old idea dates back to the dawn of human civilization that to know someone’s or something’s true name is to have power over that person or thing. It is one of the basic concepts of what is commonly referred to as magic, and although magic isn’t real, the idea that names can hold power isn’t very far from the truth. Consider, if you will, a résumé. If ever a document held names of power, a résumé is it. Not very long ago, résumés invoking words such as JavaScript, DHTML and XML were looked upon with envy, perhaps even awe. After all, for a little while, it seemed as though Web developers were rock stars that, thankfully, were never asked to sing. Unfortunately, those names are now considered passé or even a little old-fashioned.

In his essay describing this Web development technique, Garrett did one final thing; he gave it a name, AJAX, and thus gave us power over it. The acronym refers to Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, and whether you love or hate the name, the technology now has a name. At the very least, this naming means that we can describe what we’ve been doing at work. AJAX is a lot easier to say than, “I’ve been using client-side JavaScript, SOAP and XML to obtain data directly from the server using XMLHTTP instead of the standard unload/reload cycle.”

But it’s inherently deceptive. And dishonest. The last line of the above paragraph isn’t much better, either. (I see Barnett has a similar peeve on the rebranding of ‘crime’ as ‘global guerrillas’…)

Anyway, an introduction to what Javascript Web Services / “AJAX” actually are:

This article introduces you to that practice, the practice of updating Web pages with information from the server. Beyond the XMLHTTP Request object, which has been around for several years as a solution looking for a problem, there is nothing weird needed . Basically, it is how the individual pieces are put together. When they’re put together in one way, it is nothing more than a pile of parts; however, when put together in another way, the monster essentially rises from its slab.

A few years ago, I demonstrated an application that did what I just described. The demo ran for more than 2 hours with the same questions repeated over and over.

“It’s a mockup, right?”

“No, it is the actual application.”

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