What Ajax Can’t Do Well (And What Desktop Browsers Should Therefore Exploit)

A while back, I said that Ajax is rich, but not that rich. There’s a lot that Ajax can’t do now and won’t be able to do in the foreseeable future, not in a portable way.

  • Sound support is sketchy and relies on proprietary features as well as plugins
  • On-the-fly graphics generation. (Canvas will soon appear in Firefox, but the same won’t be in IE).
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Yes, keyboard shortcuts, since browser shortcuts take precedence and dominate most of the possible options for single-key and single-key-with-single-modifier. Memo to google: please make a google keyboard with an extra “Ajax” modifier button. (actually, just ditch Caps Lock instead. Hmmm, that gives me an idea …)
  • Local storage for bigger and faster caching, retaining personal data, and so on.
  • Arbitrary connectivity – any protocol to any machine.
  • Listening to OS events, like saving upon shutdown.
  • I’m sure plenty more …

In some senses, Ajax is a threat to desktop applications, so if they weren’t taking full advantage of these facilities before (they weren’t), they will be well served by considering howthey might be useful now. Sound, for instance, still doesn’t get much play. It’s the sense with the second-highest bandwidth and it’s easy for desktop apps to generate, and – newsflash – many people don’t work in open offices so sounds won’t disturb anyone else! As with colour, don’t rely on it – just use it to enhance the experience where it’s feasible.

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