Will Ajax be a Household Word?

Alright, it already is a household word, but how about our Ajax? Will it too become a household word? I’m seeing a trend that it will be.

Some terms should never really have escaped the tech world, but they somehow did. For example, Java and Flash. Okay, maybe not quite household, but well beyond the realm of techies and beyond that of gadget-obsessed teens and buzzword-obsessed managers. If a phone is “Java-enabled”, that means it probably has some games with graphics you’d be proud of in 1985. If a website has Flash, it’s got some fancy graphics and animation.

Monitoring the blogosphere, there’s an increasing trend of Ajax, Ajax, Everywhere. Non-techies are beginning to pick up on the term. And whereas Web 2.0 was previously a vague mixture of feeds and sharing and folksonomies and long tails and podcasts, a lot of people are homing in on the most salient aspect of Web 2.0: the <drum roll please> … Web. While I think all those other aspects of Web 2.0 are also vital, they’re quite frankly more abstract. Podcasts may be the most concrete thing about Web 2.0 – if you present it as “Ham Radio for the Y2K+” or some such – but you still have a lot of explaining to do about RSS and portable player integration and why you don’t have to have an IPod.

Okay, so post-techie early adopters are starting to wake up to the fact there’s an Ajax revolution going on. What does that mean?

I’m not sure. What do you think it means? A few ideas …

  • Once people begin to get conscious about this, the effect will snowball. You’ll see Ajax in business mags and journalists will begin to write about how companies can benefit from internal Ajax websites, which will create demand on intranets. The effects of Ajax are far-reaching, because Ajax is the converging point of the two biggest genres: web apps and desktop apps. Most of the apps in both genres are Ajax-bound.
  • If you’re a programmer, learn Ajax now. I’ve been encouraging a few students and grads to learn JS and DOM backwards, because clients are getting fat. Pure UI in JS – the ultimate presentation-model separation. Learn it now and walk into all the Ajax jobs out there in 12 months. Or hold off and compete against those who spent the past 12 months working it, as well as the 500 others who have flicked through “Advanced Ajax in 60 seconds”. (And learn Ruby too, but that’s a mostly unrelated story.)
  • If you’re a public website, better think long and hard about Ajax. GMail versus Hotmail? Google Maps versus MapBlast etc? Leapfrogging anyone?
  • If you’re the leader in desktop apps, think even harder. The MS perspective is interesting. One thing MS has never been is complacent, as they showed last time round when Marc Andreeson told reporters how the web would make Office obsolete and they’re showing with Ajax too. We’re starting to see where Ajax fits on Microsoft’s Atlas (sorry) and it looks like they’re embracing the other browsers, but perhaps the server needs to be MS. If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s much for people to complain about, but with Ajax apps getting more and more desktop-like each day, there’s still room for things toget nasty. Regarding Office vs Writely and others, MS’s best bet is to fully embrace Ajax and at the same time exploit the full power of the desktop for the standard version. That’s costly maintaining both versions, but if they don’t follow a dual strategy, they really have no case over a decent Ajax offering.
  • If you have an idea, now’s the time.

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