Friday, March 25, 2005

fyi Could Ajax Wash Away 'Smart Clients'?


Pointer to article:,1995,1777009,00.asp

Kobielus kommentary:
Much as I hate to see an unnecessary new acronym enter our lingo, I think “AJAX” (asynchronous JavaScript and XHTML) is preferable to “RIA” (rich Internet applications). They both refer to the same phenomenon—the enriched browser-oriented presentation tier--but AJAX references open industry standards, whereas RIA (the older of the two acronyms) carries the unpleasant connotation of partially proprietary approaches from vendors such as Macromedia, Nexaweb, and Microsoft.

Of course, AJAX and RIA aren’t the first terms to be applied to this phenomenon (the enriched Web presentation tier). Back in the day (just a few years ago), a lot of attention was paid to “Dynamic HTML.” Now the new twist is that more and more of the content being interchanged within the presentation tier (between clients and servers) is XML, not HTML. And it’s in the XML vocabulary—XHTML—that has superseded HTML 4.0 as the evolution path for Web presentation markup standards. As the article points out, AJAX is a recently coined acronym that loosely refers to any and all of the following:

• standards-based presentation using XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS);
• dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model;
• data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT;
• asynchronous data retrieval using XMLHttpRequest;
• JavaScript binding everything together.

Of course, AJAX can’t scrub the grubby pipes of the Web presentation tier overnight and get it all spotless and pristine. As an approach, it will need to coexist with partially proprietary approaches such as Microsoft’s XAML-based “Avalon” and Macromedia’s MXML-based Flex. I’m publishing an article next month in Business Communications Review that discusses the various Web presentation tier approaches—including RIA, thin client, Windows terminal emulation, and so forth—and am quite aware of the glut of presentation approaches that are crowding this space.

It’s not an issue of AJAX vs. smart client in the Web presentation tier. Every client these days is smart to varying degrees. It’s more an issue of having client-, approach-, and protocol-agile presentation middleware tiers that can support thick client, thin client (Windows terminal emulation, of which there are several approaches), basic browser, and enriched browser (RIA, of which there are several approaches, plus AJAX/DHTML). Oh…I didn’t mention the need for presentation tiers that can do equal justice to PC, laptop, and mobile/handheld browser/clients.

Yeesh…what a mess.