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Thursday, October 05, 2006

AJAX issues debated

AJAX issues debated
Filed under: Application Development

Multiple issues around AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) were raised at the AJAXWorld Conference and Expo on Wednesday, including debate over lightweight vs. heavy development frameworks.

Lightweight frameworks are those considered to be AJAX-based, while heavy frameworks include those needing desktop-based technologies such as plug-ins, said conference panelists during an evening session.

"I would have to say, of course, the end user experience needs to be totally lightweight," said Chris Schalk, a product manager and JavaServer Faces evangelist at Oracle. Lightweight technology is needed for interacting with legacy systems, he said.

"AJAX compared to other RIA (rich Internet application) technologies definitely could be defined as lightweight," said Jouk Pleiter, general manager of Backbase. "With AJAX itself, I think there is a little confusion in the market," over the use of JavaScript and different frameworks and other elements, according to Pleiter.

"The term, AJAX, has meant a lot of things to many people," said Kevin Hakman, product marketing manager for Tibco General Interface.

"I think right now, to be clear, AJAX is chaos right now," Pleiter said.

"It's a total mess because everybody is trying to create his own AJAX legacy," said Pleiter. On the positive side, Pleiter cited self-service applications and application modernization projects as examples of where AJAX is beneficial.

The panel noted the OpenAJAX Alliance is addressing issues with AJAX.

Panelists also raised the question of why Microsoft is not participating in OpenAJAX. "Most people in the alliance would be happy if they joined," Schalk said.

A co-founder of the Dojo JavaScript toolkit serving on the panel noted that the technology must keep on top of things. "[With] Dojo, I feel like we're being chased by everyone out there in the world and if we don't keep running as fast as we can, nobody is going to use Dojo in two years," said Dojo co-founder Dylan Scheimann.

Earlier in the day, technology executives during one panel session discussed whether companies need a Web 2.0 strategy. That conversation then branched off into another critical issue already touched upon at the conference: AJAX security.

A Web 2.0 strategy is needed, said Luis Derechin, CEO of JackBe. "Anything that's this big and making such an impact in the consumer space ultimately will get into the enterprise," Derechin said. But companies putting together such a strategy should concentrate on what they are trying to achieve, said Juho Risku, CEO of Helmi.

Technologies associated with Web 2.0 include AJAX and Flash, said Pleiter, who served on both the daytime and evening panels. He cited an example of a call center being fitted with Web 2.0 technology to improve efficiency.

AJAX, meanwhile, makes it easier to fill out Web forms, he said. "With AJAX technology, you can reduce a form that was 30 steps to [a complete form] in one screen and you can really make it easy," Pleiter said.

Security, though, remain an issue with AJAX, although AJAX is certainly not the only platform that must deal with it, panelists said.

"People think there's more risk in AJAX," and there is not, Derechin said.

Pleiter advised using the same technology set that companies have already used to handle security. There have been issues in client-side JavaScript security but they have always been there, he said.

Details on improvements planned for the Eclipse AJAX Toolkit Framework (ATF) also were discussed at the show. These improvements include debugger enhancements, robust JavaScript tooling and multiple browser support. Eclipse also is trying to get ATF to function with the Macintosh embeddable browser but is having trouble, said Robert Goodman, a senior programmer at IBM and a project lead for ATF.

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