What Is AJAX?

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Briefing-93
Briefing-93
An Introduction
To AJAX
An Introduction
To AJAX
A QA Focus Document
A QA Focus Document
What Is AJAX?
What Is AJAX?
AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is an umbrella term for a collection of Web
development technologies used to create interactive Web applications, mostly W3C
standards (the XMLHttpRequest specification is developed by WHATWG [1]):
AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is an umbrella term for a collection of Web
development technologies used to create interactive Web applications, mostly W3C
standards (the XMLHttpRequest specification is developed by WHATWG [1]):

XHTML – a stricter, cleaner rendering of HTML into XML.

XHTML – a stricter, cleaner rendering of HTML into XML.

CSS for marking up and adding styles.

CSS for marking up and adding styles.

The Javascript Document Object Model (DOM) which allows the content,
structure and style of a document to be dynamically accessed and updated.

The Javascript Document Object Model (DOM) which allows the content,
structure and style of a document to be dynamically accessed and updated.

The XMLHttpRequest object which exchanges data asynchronously with the
Web server reducing the need to continually fetch resources from the server.

The XMLHttpRequest object which exchanges data asynchronously with the
Web server reducing the need to continually fetch resources from the server.
Since data can be sent and retrieved without requiring the user to reload an entire Web
page, small amounts of data can be transferred as and when required. Moreover, page
elements can be dynamically refreshed at any level of granularity to reflect this. An
AJAX application performs in a similar way to local applications residing on a user’s
machine, resulting in a user experience that may differ from traditional Web browsing.
Since data can be sent and retrieved without requiring the user to reload an entire Web
page, small amounts of data can be transferred as and when required. Moreover, page
elements can be dynamically refreshed at any level of granularity to reflect this. An
AJAX application performs in a similar way to local applications residing on a user’s
machine, resulting in a user experience that may differ from traditional Web browsing.
The Origins of AJAX
The Origins of AJAX
Recent examples of AJAX usage include Gmail [2], Flickr [3] and 24SevenOffice [4]. It
is largely due to these and other prominent sites that AJAX has become popular only
relatively recently – the technology has been available for some time. One precursor
was dynamic HTML (DHTML), which twinned HTML with CSS and JavaScript but
suffered from cross-browser compatibility issues. The major technical barrier was a
common method for asynchronous data exchange; many variations are possible, such as
the use of an “iframe” for data storage or JavaScript Object Notation for data
transmission, but the wide availability of the XMLHttpRequest object has made it a
popular solution. AJAX is not a technology, rather, the term refers to a proposed set of
methods using a number of existing technologies. As yet, there is no firm AJAX
standard, although the recent establishment of the Open AJAX group [5], supported by
major industry figures such as IBM and Google, suggests that one will become available
soon.
Recent examples of AJAX usage include Gmail [2], Flickr [3] and 24SevenOffice [4]. It
is largely due to these and other prominent sites that AJAX has become popular only
relatively recently – the technology has been available for some time. One precursor
was dynamic HTML (DHTML), which twinned HTML with CSS and JavaScript but
suffered from cross-browser compatibility issues. The major technical barrier was a
common method for asynchronous data exchange; many variations are possible, such as
the use of an “iframe” for data storage or JavaScript Object Notation for data
transmission, but the wide availability of the XMLHttpRequest object has made it a
popular solution. AJAX is not a technology, rather, the term refers to a proposed set of
methods using a number of existing technologies. As yet, there is no firm AJAX
standard, although the recent establishment of the Open AJAX group [5], supported by
major industry figures such as IBM and Google, suggests that one will become available
soon.
This document is available at:
<http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/documents/briefings/briefing-98/>
This document is available at:
<http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/documents/briefings/briefing-98/>
Using AJAX
Using AJAX
AJAX applications can benefit both the user and the developer. Web applications can
respond much more quickly to many types of user interaction and avoid repeatedly
sending unchanged information across the network. Also, because AJAX technologies
are open, they are supported in all JavaScript-enabled browsers, regardless of operating
system – however, implementation differences of the XMLHttpRequest between
browsers cause some issues, some using an ActiveX object, others providing a native
implementation. The upcoming W3C ‘Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Load
and Save Specification’ [6] provides a standardised solution, but the current solution has
become a de facto standard and is therefore likely to be supported in future browsers.
AJAX applications can benefit both the user and the developer. Web applications can
respond much more quickly to many types of user interaction and avoid repeatedly
sending unchanged information across the network. Also, because AJAX technologies
are open, they are supported in all JavaScript-enabled browsers, regardless of operating
system – however, implementation differences of the XMLHttpRequest between
browsers cause some issues, some using an ActiveX object, others providing a native
implementation. The upcoming W3C ‘Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Load
and Save Specification’ [6] provides a standardised solution, but the current solution has
become a de facto standard and is therefore likely to be supported in future browsers.
Although the techniques within AJAX are relatively mature, the overall approach is still
fairly new and there has been criticism of the usability of its applications; further
information on this subject is available in the AJAX and Usability QA Focus briefing
document [7]. One of the major causes for concern is that JavaScript needs to be
enabled in the browser for AJAX applications to work. This setting is out of the
developer’s control and statistics show that currently 10% of browsers have JavaScript
turned off [8]. This is often for accessibility reasons or to avoid scripted viruses.
Although the techniques within AJAX are relatively mature, the overall approach is still
fairly new and there has been criticism of the usability of its applications; further
information on this subject is available in the AJAX and Usability QA Focus briefing
document [7]. One of the major causes for concern is that JavaScript needs to be
enabled in the browser for AJAX applications to work. This setting is out of the
developer’s control and statistics show that currently 10% of browsers have JavaScript
turned off [8]. This is often for accessibility reasons or to avoid scripted viruses.
Conclusions
Conclusions
The popularity of AJAX is due to the many advantages of the technology, but several
pitfalls remain related to the informality of the standard, its disadvantages and
limitations, potential usability issues and the idiosyncrasies of various browsers and
platforms. However, the level of interest from industry groups and communities means
that it is undergoing active and rapid development in all these areas.
The popularity of AJAX is due to the many advantages of the technology, but several
pitfalls remain related to the informality of the standard, its disadvantages and
limitations, potential usability issues and the idiosyncrasies of various browsers and
platforms. However, the level of interest from industry groups and communities means
that it is undergoing active and rapid development in all these areas.
References
References
1. Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group,
<http://www.whatwg.org/>
2. Gmail, <http://gmail.google.com/>
3. Flickr, <http://www.flickr.com/>
4. 24SevenOffice, <http://www.24sevenoffice.com/>
5. The Open AJAX group,
<http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/ajax.pdf>
6. Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Load and Save Specification, W3C,
<http://www.w3.org/TR/DOM-Level-3-LS/>
7. AJAX and Usability, QA Focus briefing document, no. 94
<http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/documents/briefings/briefing-94/>
1.
8. W3Schools Browser statistics,
8.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
<http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp>
Produced by QA Focus - supporting best practices for digital library programmes
For further information see <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/>
March 2006
Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group,
<http://www.whatwg.org/>
Gmail, <http://gmail.google.com/>
Flickr, <http://www.flickr.com/>
24SevenOffice, <http://www.24sevenoffice.com/>
The Open AJAX group,
<http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/ajax.pdf>
Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Load and Save Specification, W3C,
<http://www.w3.org/TR/DOM-Level-3-LS/>
AJAX and Usability, QA Focus briefing document, no. 94
<http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/documents/briefings/briefing-94/>
W3Schools Browser statistics,
<http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp>
Produced by QA Focus - supporting best practices for digital library programmes
For further information see <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/qa-focus/>
March 2006
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