Analyst Hyperbole Of The Day: Go AJAX Or Die

from the oh-please dept

When you go to a supposed expert, such as an analyst, they should help you to cut through the hype — not puff up the hype even more. Unfortunately, all too often we see that analyst firms are simply a big part of the hype cycle. Take, for example, this article about AJAX technology (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) which is all the rage these days among Web 2.0 companies. A Gartner analyst has now been quoted saying that websites need to use AJAX or they won’t get traffic any more. Specifically, he says that sites that don’t use AJAX, “will simply not be cool enough to use.” This is from someone who is supposedly an expert, who others look to for advice. Obviously the various technologies that make up AJAX can be quite useful, but whatever happened to not focusing on the technology, but what the technology actually does? Sure, some sites are probably going to be better off using AJAX in one way or another, but it really depends on what the application or service is supposed to do. To give a blanket recommendation to use AJAX in all cases doesn’t seem particularly analytical — but does pump up the hype.

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Comments on “Analyst Hyperbole Of The Day: Go AJAX Or Die”

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Tom says:

Yeah Right

AJAX is not the be-all-end-all to what ails a website and is not very navigable because of a lack of backspace issue since the item is updated right in the webpage. Plus, there are other technologies that are coming down the pike (Flex 2 from Adobe) that aren’t as limited like AJAX is. Also, if Javascipt is disabled in a browser all there goes all your hardwork too. Besides, it sounds like the Gartner Analyst is just trying to put his name down in punditry history.

anonymous says:

Re: reasons...

Agreed. There is a time and place for AJAX. Use it to reduce the load time for heavy dynamic data sites in order to keep the user from becoming frustrated and leaving the page rather than waiting for load. In addition, it reduces the amount of bandwidth required to keep a dynamic page up to date. These are just a couple of good resons to use it. If it improves functionality and/or usablilty, then great. Otherwise, don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Mighty Afro Whitey says:

Of all the things to not like about AJAX

None of them have anything to do with faults of AJAX but instead deal with the faults of the programmer. Though comments are not the best forum for this discussion, I’m going to rant anyway.

“AJAX prevents users from navigating forward and backward in a site.”

Wrong. Flat out wrong. People who develop and ajaxian site without implementing a homegrown or third-party navigation system are the reason this is the number one grudge against said sites. It has nothing to do with AJAX and EVERYTHING to do with a terrible implementation. Javascript has full control over disabling the browsers default back button and keep a history of page posts, you can implement your own back button in the webpage itself. One that is smarter and more efficient than the default browsers back button, might I add.

In addition, bookmarking is actually better in a well designed site. Though it’s usually overlooked, you can implement favorites with url parameters that tell the application where to start from, all the while allowing certain sections that need to be up to date to be updated without user intervention.

What’s so limited with AJAX? Name something Flex can do but javascript & html can’t? Or flash for that matter? It might be easier to implement flashy animation in those languages but javascript can do the same, and there a few third party libraries that do it quite well and quite fast. But those technologies are not polar to AJAX designs.

And people act like a majority of browsers don’t have javascript enabled. What if people don’t have flex installed or don’t have a computer fast enough to handle flash, or a browser that supports it for that matter. That’s all crap, a majority of people have javascript enabled, far more than those who have flex installed, and it will probably stay that way. You could say “all that hard work gone” or you could say “hey dumbass user, enable javascript or use our slow, clunky bandwidth sucking version of our website” which is exactly what you have to do with flash and flex.

It’s like saying the .Net framework sucks because all I’ve ever seen was a shitty calculator application. Thank god for Google who’s been able to show such a vast audience what’s possible. And sadly, google only touches the surface of what’s to come. Centralized shareable desktops accessibly from anywhere in the world with all of the applications needed to get business done, all completely interconnected is what web 2.0 will attain. Although by then there will be some other buzz word attributed to it.

Application Hosting IS a major part of the future of the web, and AJAX will be a MAJOR part of that sector. So many things benefit from a good implementation, shopping carts, web based applications like email clients, calendars, spreadsheets, database managers, hosting administration panels, etc.

I don’t agree with the article’s viewpoint that you need it to survive in all cases on the web (Blogs really have no need for it), but I can assure you that with respect to competition between two sites offering similar services, a good implementation of AJAX would be the deciding factor in who gets the customer.

I’ve been developing sites/applications like this for three years now, and though there is a lot to learn about good implementations, once you have it you’d never want to develop a web app without it. For reasons other than just the user experience too, the amount of reduced redundant code, reduced bandwidth and improved speed are well worth it to companies and developers.

Things will only improve in this field at a rate akin to the IT industry as a whole – exponentially.

HowItIs says:

Re: Of all the things to not like about AJAX

Dear Mighty,

Although I do appreciate a good rant, I severely detest a misquided one. I can understand your defense of Ajax. It’s cool, and has its uses. But you should also know about its alternatives and limitations. Yes, limitations. First of all, Flex does not need to be installed on the users’ machines. It’s server-side, like JSP, and interpreted/compiled into a flash file (swf). Flash has more market penetration than any other plugin. Though, I will yield, it is more likely that the browser will have javascript enabled than they will have flash installed. Name one thing flex/flash can do that Ajax can’t? OK… how about with Flex Data Services, which can push data updated on one client to all other clients without extra code. I’ll agree with most peoples’ comments that Ajax is not the end-all for web programming. There are several ways to implement the features Ajax is known for, such as the marvelous reloaded iframe mentioned above. In the end, there is no golden language, and you need to weigh the pros and cons of each to find out which is best for the application you’re writing.

Tom says:

Re: Of all the things to not like about AJAX

Since you asked about it, rather than talk here are some good links to read regarding Flex 2 and how it and AJAX compare:

You can read and formulate your opinion from the links. However, both of the above individuals point out the differences where Flex works better than AJAX in areas and vice versa. They also point out that if you are doing text, obviously HTML/AJAX are better suited for that than using Flex.

PB Joe says:

Re: Of all the things to not like about AJAX

You make some good points in comparing an AJAX implementation to the use of Flex. However, there are a few things that need to be pointed out. First, users do not need to have flex “installed.” They only require flash. The point of Flex is that it returns pure flash content, so no client tools outside of the current version of flash are required.

It is true that most everything Flex can do AJAX can do as well. I believe that the advantages people point to is the ease and speed of development when using flex, along with flash’s cross-browser compatibility. Generally speaking, if it works on a mac, it works on a PC (or Linux, etc.) when you’re talking about flash. This really cuts down on the workload, especially in regard to testing.

I agree that it is a baseless argument to state that there’s no point to AJAX, simply because some users might have javascript disabled. The vast majority of users will have these features on, just as most browsers out there have the flash plugin (between 95-98% ubiquity for flash v6 or higher). If we built all of our sites with the lowest common denominator as our benchmark, our end product would be garbage.

One other side note to make: There is no need to pick one over the other. A flex app can implement AJAX, and vice versa. This guy has some interesting examples of running the two technologies side by side.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sick and tired of people with no grasp of reality managing to find themselves referred to as an “expert” on subjects they clearly know very little about. These people are posed a simple question and in 30 words or less show us that they don’t have a clue. First and foremost, the only “expert” that would use the word “cool” in a sentence directed at anyone they intend to take them seriously would have to be a professional skateboarder. When discussing potentially earth shattering and world changing technologies and events, such as AJAX, the word “cool” has no place whatsoever in the conversation. I agree wholeheartedly with the author of this particular article that this compilation of technologies just flat out isn’t going to be the end-all for every site out there. Most of the sites that would use everything that makes up AJAX do not need it. If I have to download 50mb of web data to get the phone number for my local Pizza Hut, something very tragic has taken place.

ess says:

What is really interesting about AJAX is that the technology has been there for a very long time. more…Only recently that companies and individuals have started to realize the potential for its use. However, there are downfalls in using AJAX as well. One of them is inability to bookmark a page that a user is currently viewing. Another perhaps is to do with search engines. a third is to do with JavaScript, is it enabled or disabled. I am sure that there would be a host of other issues as more and more people start to use it. There are many questions that need to be answered such as, why would you use it? and what is it really good for? Not much I don’t think. Unless we would want to go back to good old days of designing flashy websites that demonstrate designers’ skills more than anything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would like to point out not being able to bookmark your position on a “Web 2.0” page, is definately possible. Designers have all the tools to make it happen as well. Its called a “cookie”. Will we be shipping Chips-A-Hoy to all users? It could help but no. All we need to do is save the state of the program. Web designers will have to get together with some application designers to figure this one out but it just a part of the evolution of the new design.

The point about search engines you raise, well its kind of vague cause well, you don’t make one. But I guess you figure since the site is dynamic the search engine will not be able to accurately profile the page. Again a part of evolution and the designers use of the “robots.txt” file. AJAX (Web 2.0) is higly database driven, user A types a response to an option it is stored processed and returned, once this is done the site has effectively changed in a way that the designer would want Google, et al to recognize. By setting up your own strategy of what in your database you want Google to know about you can definately update them on, you dump this to your robots.txt file and let Google know to come by and pick it up.

Finally AJAX, with all design tools dating back to the paintbrush is dependant on the person using it. Two people with the same brush and paint can make two completely diffrent results. All it does it offer a more controlled website experience, such as not having to wait as the entire site reloads each time you click or type something, if a link is clicked and you don’t need a whole window to show the response you can display an embedded window letting it load on its own with out the user having to hunt down a new IE/FF window and going back when that window is closed.

So AJAX is a very “cool” tool but it only really smooths the presentation of the page. The same content, same basic design but no anoying page reloads where your browser is frozen till the page finishes. Those pages that offer interacton will allow the whole site to become immensly usefull as you can get at all the interfaces immediately playaround with them without having to worry about server timeouts and your whole page dissapearing, the designer will have to take this into account no doubt but it is part of the progress.

Anonymous Coward says:

major + minor uses of ajax

I have a few pages with a super basic ajax routine, but it basically just replaces iframes to get content from an external page – so does he qualify that as AJAX? or am I still gonna rot in the fiery pits of Web 1.0?

its guys like this “analyst” who think every little site needs AJAX widgets and webapps when you have about a billionth the budget of say Google (or none at all) when all you really need to do is display information – not have every page of the site have headers that can be dragged and dropped or create word docs via webapps embedded in pages…

Anonymous Coward says:

AJAX Can be good

As mentioned earlier, AJAX can be great for some applications. For instance, you have a form for address and you put in a Zip code and want to query a database for all the cities in that zip code to populate a drop down list. You don’t want to have a page refresh for that, AJAX lets you query the database and populate the form with the information without the postback and the user is unaware of the task that takes place.

Jimmy Bear Pearson (user link) says:

Article hypes, yes...

Seriously, it is too much to say that non-AJAX-enabled sites will die off or get no traffic.

AJAX is a neat technology that is very useful. So are Flash bits, and so are great images. However, each of these page components have their place and purpose. Too much of a good thing tends to be a bad thing, and too little of a good thing tends to make a page bland.

I do remember the first web pages I ever read – it was the early 90s, and the pages were all text (well, with some big or bold text, but just text). Then came images… and the plain text pages looked, well, plain. Then came animated images, and then came interesting page layouts.

Fast-forward to the present… When one goes back and looks at a page that is nothing but left-justified text, it often looks un-professional – if TechDirt looked like a Notepad-based document, it would definitely look unprofessional. We have come to expect visual elements, layouts, images, and interactive items. Things that were previously “advanced” items are part of everyday average pages now.

This is not to say that a page must have tons of widgets – we’ve all seen the pages with 800 animated gifs, Flash ads, flashing text, and blue text on red background – I’m just saying this:

The Web, and how we perceive it is evolving. AJAX is a great component to that evolution. Let’s use it where appropriate. But… it won’t kill a well-done web site/page if it isn’t AJAX-enabled.

Christopher Skinner says:

yeah yeah yeah

I’m growing a little tired of the term web 2.0. couldn’t we come up with something a little more sexy? ajax is very useful for certain things but will not make a site lacking content any better.

Adding animation, flash, fluff, ajax, etc, will only produce a site that looks like an angry fruit salad if there’s not good substance / navigation implemented as well.

Jonathan says:

AJAX has its place

AJAX should be used for enhancing the programmatic aspects of a webpage. It should be there solely for the convenience of the user.

When used properly, AJAX seriously enhances the efficiency of a site by diminishing page loads.

About javascript – I just received some information from Commission Junction. One percent of the people clicking through their links have javascript disabled. Commission Junction is considering changing of all their plain-html affiliate links to javascript links.

Everything has its place – if I need to develop a presentation tier web application or a vector-based graphic animation I will use Flex or Flash.

mthorn says:

Disabled Javascript via Firefox

I use a Firefox plugin (called NoScript) to disable javascript unless I explicitly allow it for a site. The purpose of it is to block all those stupid javascript based advertising like popups and adds embedded in text hovers. It works great. However on sites that require JS I have to enable it. Some sites I don’t mind, cause they use JS for functionality. Other sites use it for functionality and plenty of annoying ads.

I wouldn’t block any ads if they weren’t annoying and intrusive.

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