SXSW: Ajax, what do I need to know?

The Ajax panel covered the basics including an excellent review of the existing Ajax toolkits as well as a discussion of the negatives surrounding its usage. The panel consisted of Dylan Schiemann (Dojo, Renkoo), Dori Smith, and Jesse James Garrett (Adaptive Path). Here are the notes:

– the Ajax term is a hook for technical folks to be able to use with business people (Garrett)

– Garrett’s Ajax article expanded reach into technical audience/community; Ajax was already well known among designers

– it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot working with Ajax; everyone will make a lot of mistakes along the way

– cross domain issues can be a real problem (Dylan)

– getting started with Ajax

  • determine requirements
  • find a good toolkit or existing code – Dojo, MochKit, and Prototype are all open source
  • learn more about JavaScript and HTTP

– reinventing the wheel â?? DHTML universe (pdf)

– JavaScript is flexible â?? the developers of these toolkits are influenced by the language where the developers came from

– Dylan helped build Dojo to “make new mistakes”, enhance features and performance, and nothing existed at the time that met his requirements.

– Dylan’s slides for this panel are located at

– Dojo has over 30 contributors.

– Doris pointed out some of the negatives while working with Ajax and lumped them into two main categories – accessibility and usability

– what happens for people not using JavaScript – donâ??t have or turned off – they need to see something

– many technically savvy people believe JavaScript is a security nightmare, but it isnâ??t

– degradeability must be planned from the beginning; can’t add on at the end

– user expectations â?? what about the back button; people expect it to work

– users like to bookmark pages â?? this is very difficult on Ajax applications right now; need special links like Google maps (save this URL, etc.)

– must manage user expectations

– there are navigation issues; too many Ajax apps try to do too much too fast locking up resources and losing navigation

– “mystery meat navigation” â?? the UIs for Ajax are still developing; much is weird right now

– search engine friendliness â?? how much do Ajax apps give to Google, how much findability

– Ajax stands for: “JavaScript works now”

– why happening now? we know how to work with these technologies now

– the technology didnâ??t evolve that much, but the sophistication of those using it have

– Ajax is the next step, but not the last step in the evolution of web development

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

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