Will Ajax help Google clean up?

Google's popular map and e-mail sites reignite interest in older Web tech, raising potential threat to Microsoft, Flash and Java.

In the race to build the Web of the future, some developers are reaching back to the past.

Start-ups and industry giants such as Microsoft continue to devise newfangled systems for delivering desktop-like applications over the Web. But search giant Google has taken a different path, using older technology to build its newest applications such as Google Maps and Gmail.

That's prompted developers to take a second look at old-hat technologies that have been kicking around on the Web since the 1990s, such as JavaScript and Dynamic HTML.

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What's new:
Google's popular map and e-mail sites have reignited interest in old-hat technologies that have been kicking around on the Web since the 1990s.

Bottom line:
If technology that works in the current generation of Web browsers is indeed good enough for powerful, scalable Web-based applications, it could be a potential threat to Microsoft, Flash and Java.

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"Suddenly you've got a company like Google that has shown to a mass audience that rich Internet applications have a tremendous benefit to the end user," said David Temkin , chief technology officer of Laszlo Systems, a start-up whose Web application system underlies EarthLink's new e-mail Web site. "The difference between Google Maps and any other map site is not subtle--it's almost a different product category. And the same is true of Gmail."

Those older technologies--such as the JavaScript scripting language, the Cascading Style Sheets recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for applying styles to multiple Web pages, and other coding bells and whistles--are sometimes grouped under the marketing term Dynamic HTML, or DHTML.

The interest isn't driven by some dot-com nostalgia. Proponents argue that these older technologies are good enough to do the job and that support for them is already embedded in common Web browsers.

Developers have filled their blogs with debate over a recent Feb. 18 posting by Jesse Garrett, co-founder of San Francisco consultancy Adaptive Path, who coined the acronym Ajax to promote the idea of using "Asynchronous JavaScript + XML" as a way of building Web applications with freely available technologies.


Bloggers have nitpicked at the term, and Google engineers refer to their coding technique simply as JavaScript. But in just a month, "Ajax" has gained currency with the recent flurry of blog postings and a story about it in The Wall Street Journal.

"While I'm not usually a big fan of new acronyms, I'm happy to see this Ajax idea emerging," said Toni Schneider, product manager in Yahoo's platform engineering group and former CEO of Oddpost, which Yahoo acquired last year . "Someone's given a name to what we've been working on for years, to the idea of using JavaScript and moving it to the next level."

If technology that works in the current generation of Web browsers is indeed good enough for powerful, scalable Web-based applications, that could result in reduced demand for everything from Laszlo Systems' tools, Macromedia's Flash and Flex-based offerings, Sun Microsystems' Java-based applications, and for Microsoft's planned

 

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