I attended the December meeting of the Brisbane Java Users Group last night. The presenters Alex and Brad from Working Mouse a Brisbane Based J2EE Solutions Provider gave a talk on AJAX.
Let me explain some more, providing dynamic content on a website is straight forward, when you request a page, however to provide dynamic content within a page without refreshing the page (and in turn keeping all page state) is not a feature of the HTTP protocol. The most obvious case always presented is when selecting a Country Select Box value, a Select Box of States is populated based on the selection without the user seeing both the entire page reloading and waiting for this. There are of course a number of examples of use.
While the presentation was a good introduction to those that had not seen this in operation, the subsequent discussions over dinner prompted some strong reactions, which is good in our line of work.
This technology implementation is inherently flawed, primarily due to the reliance on a Web Browser, and being both a multitude of available browsers across platforms and more specifically a lack of standards adoption causes this technology simply not to be available for all users. Of course Microsoft Internet Explorer is a significant pain in the butt here, as it’s simply not standards compliant, and you are forced to write bad code to work in IE simply due to it’s market penetration. There are of course a lot more of concern, proxies at multiple levels of interaction can drive you mad, and the increases in bandwidth and server performance.
That aside, the issue of needing to provide this level of rich content within a browser is another very good case. This is driven by end user need, and ultimately it is rather ridiculous it’s complicated code, it’s yet another language within the application to support, and the support is difficult, it’s even more complicated to provide some type of automated testing. But I guess the strongest comments came from Max, who recognised me after 15 years. Max was a lecturer in my undergraduate studies from 87-89, a long time ago. I would place Max (not his real name by the way, it’s a long story which took some research at the time), as one of the top three lecturers in my studies that influenced my path to where I am today.
His points were totally valid, why oh why are we doing this, it’s just ridiculous this level of complexity, to do what a browser was not simply designed to do. I would tend to agree, we are forced again by the influence of Microsoft technologies on end users to provide a level of experience they have been brainwashed into. It so reminds me of the The Matrix movie, where everybody is living under the power of the machines (Microsoft), and there a small few fighting a rebel cause to show them what the picture really looks like.