AJAX 101: What AJAX Does and Why You Want AJAX

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s not uncommon now-a-days to hear this weird jargon thrown around called ‘AJAX’, but what does it stand for?

I’ve yet to read a better history and break down than what Jeremy Keith wrote in his book entitled “Bulletproof AJAX“. So without further ado, I’m going to quote Keith a bunch:

“Jesse James Garrett is an information architect, author and founding partner of the San Francisco-based company Adaptive Path. In February 2005, he published an essay on the Adaptive Path Web site titled ‘Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications.’ In this essay, Garrett coined the term Ajax to describe techniques used by a new kind of Web application…. It was originally intended to be an acronym standing for ‘Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.’ ”

Keith goes on to explain that the acronym implies that asynchronous and XML are requirements within AJAX, which just isn’t true. (JavaScript is definitely required in most cases, but the AJAX behavior could be done through Flash or Java as well, just to name a couple.) “Jesse James Garrett later updated his essay, making it clear that Ajax is not an acronym.” The technology has been around before Garrett as well but coining the term made it possible for most of us to talk about a set of technologies, that when used together, create a new user experience. So think of AJAX more as a user experience than a certain set of technologies.

Garrett created the term AJAX so he could more easily have a conversation with clients and his developers alike. So why is the AJAX behavior different than your traditional development? 

Example - Tradition: You login at a web site and notice your  browser has to think for a bit while it either refreshes your current page or goes to a new one. This makes you have to reload the same content or be forced to load new content. - AJAX alternative: You login at a web site, it gives you a little notice saying that you’re now logged in. That’s it. No loading required on your end.

What AJAX does is allow the user to send and receive information back from the site without ever having to load content. It’s not that the technology is that much smarter, or psychic, but that all the loading happens behind the scenes, putting the burden on what matters the least, in the code. What matters most is the user and their experience on your site.

So why ask for it?

AJAX allows for a faster, smoother user experience. It’s becoming so mainstream lately that it’s making more traditional web development seem bulky and slow to use in comparison. Ever used Google Maps? Yep, all AJAX. Even the competition switched over to use their techniques – Mapquest and Yahoo, to name a couple.

It’s also pretty neat on our end too. This affords us with some pretty neat effects we can do easily for our clients’ sites, like animation.

Now that you’re just a little more knowledgeable on the subject, I hope your next web site will include a lot of AJAX implementation to give your users a smoother experience. Feel free to contact us for more information regarding AJAX implementation on your site.