IBM spearheads Ajax tools at Eclipse

Open Ajax is a proposed open-source project to let programmers build Web apps using Eclipse, Ajax toolkits.

IBM and several other software companies have proposed an open-source project to simplify development tools for Ajax-style Web development.

Called Open Ajax, the proposed open-source project will be based on IBM-donated code designed to let software developers use the Eclipse development tool to write Web applications using Ajax.

Ajax, which stands for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, is a way of writing applications so that Web pages can be interactive and users don't have to press the refresh button to update data on their screens.

As previously reported, the project has the backing of several software companies, including IBM, Google, BEA Systems, Red Hat, Borland Software, Novell, Oracle, Yahoo, PHP tool maker Zend Technologies, e-mail company Zimbra, and phone-software company Openwave Systems. The Eclipse Foundation, the Mozilla Corporation and the Dojo Foundation also intend to participate in the project.

Ajax-style development has grown in popularity in the past year following the release of some high-profile interactive Web applications, such as GoogleMaps, that use Ajax.

Several toolkits, or frameworks, designed to simplify Ajax development have emerged. The goal of the Open Ajax project is to allow developers to pick an Ajax framework and use it with the Eclipse software, said Rod Smith, vice president of advanced technolgy at IBM.

"There are a lot of toolkits out there, and I think you'll see toolkits will consolidate around certain developer communities," Smith said.

He expects that within a year, developers will converge around between two and five specialized toolkits. For example, one Ajax toolkit could focus on front-end Web designers, while others could build features better suited for corporate application developers.

Currently, the Open Ajax software allows two toolkits to run with Eclipse: the Dojo Toolkit and a recently proposed Apache project called Kabuki.

"We found that Ajax was not approachable technology--it's difficult, which is why lowering barriers for other people is important," Smith said. "We think this is a good first step. More tooling and more work needs to be done to broaden the community."

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