Original Ajax

I thought this was interesting over on Scobleizer: Apparently Jean Paoli’s team at Microsoft created XMLHttp in 1998 in order to give the Outlook team a way to do Outlook Web Access.

I mean, that’s not all that interesting. It’d be more neat if what we were using it for now was totally not what was expected, but I guess the tool is being used for what it was invented.

Full article about that, the Microsoft Atlas project, which I’m guessing is Visual Web Developer 2005 + ASP.NET 2.0, you can go to ScottGu’s Blog. There, he talks about the upcoming Atlas Client Script Framework, which will provide ajax support to ASP.NET

Next, we need to have System.Windows.Forms implemented in XHTML+CSS+AJAX. Wouldn’t that be something?

Ajax Timeline

  • Late 1998 / Early 1999 – Microsoft releases IE 5.0 with support for XMLHttpRequest
  • Sometime In Between – Oddpost uses XMLHttpRequest to produce a highly functional webmail client
  • February 2005 – Google releases Google Maps to the world demonstrating cross-platform use of XMLHttpRequest (Google also released Google Groups, Google Suggest, and GMail using the technology around this time)
  • February 18, 2005 – Jesse James Garrett writes, “Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications” on the Adaptive Path website.
  • The world jumps on the bandwagon, seeing how cool Google Maps is, and that it’s not just “google magic” — the name “AJAX” and some simple descriptions of the technology allow lots of people to really grasp what it’s about.
  • Everyone who is doing something like this already starts calling it AJAX, too. (except the google engineers, who apparently just call it “javascript” — how modest, and everyone who still called it “XMLHTTP”)
  • Profit

I’d like to point out that many of the “rich application frameworks” that are out there (many of which are described in my rich application frameworks page) have been at this for a while, working on their technology out of the limelight.

It’s just that several powerful trends have collided, and the naming of the beast has, well, given everyone a focusing point. Naming something like this gives everyone a common frame of reference. Not that “XMLHTTP” wasn’t a good name for the idea, it’s just that, well, it’s not as sexy as AJAX. The naming of the technology, the very prominent use of it in Google Maps, the already-breeding realm of rich application frameworks, well, all of them collided and produced this idea in everyone’s head that Javascript isn’t as bad as we had all thought, and that using “modern” javascript could really produce some highly functional, powerful web applications.

Part of it is that javascript left such a nasty taste in people’s mouths that it was relegated to the, “only use if it you have to” realm. I know that’s where I was, having beat myself over the head with the javascript stick back in the day when Netscape still had >50% marketshare. I think a lot of people are seeing this technology and are realizing that we’ve come a long way since then. Really, for the most part, now you *CAN* have one codepath (for most things), and you don’t have to hack, hack, and more hack your way to getting things working on various browsers. Part of it is that we don’t have to test on Netscape 3.0 anymore, and part of it is that the technology has matured enough to not give everyone headaches.

There’s more to this, for sure, but I think i’m hitting the key points.

Some of this was ‘researched’ at various places around the web, but i found the Wikipedia AJAX article very helpful

The dawn of Web 3.0

  • Web 1.0 – The original couple years of the web, web 1.0 was the initial buildout of what everyone calls “the web”
  • Web 2.0 – A subtle change in how things worked on the web, characterized by the following:
  • “Web 2.0 is [about] making the Internet better for computers.” — Jeff Bezos
  • Applications that talk to each other via standards like XML (SOAP, RSS, etc)
  • Major websites with publicly accessible API’s (Google, Amazon, Ebay, etc) made possible by things like XML/SOAP
  • Sites being more about drawing strength from their users than from publishing content. In other words, user-generated content
  • Tagging — free form keyword association built on top of user communities (Flickr, del.icio.us)
  • Using Firefox to create live bookmarks out of tagged del.icio.us bookmark rss streams — very ‘wow that’s a lot of pieces put together to create that’

And then comes Web 3.0. What? Web 2.0 is barely here, you say. Well, this is partially true, but most of the people in the know already ‘get’ web 2.0. Also, what’s coming really has the potential to change things in a ‘new and different way’

Web 3.0 is actually the embodiment of what everyone thought Web 1.0 would be. Rich web frameworks are here and are getting better rapidly, and they’re going to change things very dramatically. Back in 1999, everyone was claiming that, “The browser is the new application platform.” While ideed, there were many web applications created, they weren’t really doing the things that you normally did on your desktop. “Microsoft Word, but in a web browser” is something that people would have talked about. The problem was, you couldn’t really do it, at least not well.

This brings us to the rich web. Web application frameworks like dojo, rico, backbase, etc. are pushing the envelope of what’s possible to do inside a web browser, making the web more like the desktop application. Why is this revolutionary? Well, first of all, we’ll start to see the promise of ‘the browser as a platform.’ People will be able to get at their applications from wherever they are, just like they’ve been doing with their webmail. This has been possible to do using things like network fileshares and content management systems, but that’s crap. That’s a big bloated solution to get your desktop apps to follow you where you go.

What i’m saying is that the data and the application will FINALLY actually reside on the server, and you’ll just pop open a web browser and do your work from whatever desktop you’re at. I know this has been said many times before, but I actually think there’s real technology to back it up, this time.

But, you know what? I think I’m getting WAY ahead of the curve here. Web 2.0 still has a long way to go, and we’re just in the infancy of the new era of web applications, so there’s still quite some time before the rich web takes real hold of things.