Ajax (programming)


Ajax (programming)

Ajax (also AJAX; pronounced /ˈeɪdʒæks/; an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)[1] is a group of interrelated web development methods used on the client-side to create asynchronous web applications. With Ajax, web applications can send data to, and retrieve data from, a server asynchronously (in the background) without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page. Data is usually retrieved using the XMLHttpRequest object. Despite the name, the use of XML is not needed (JSON is often used instead), and the requests do not need to be asynchronous.[2]

Ajax is not one technology, but a group of technologies. HTML and CSS can be used in combination to mark up and style information. The DOM is accessed with JavaScript to dynamically display, and to allow the user to interact with the information presented. JavaScript and the XMLHttpRequest object provide a method for exchanging data asynchronously between browser and server to avoid full page reloads.

Contents

History

In the 1990s, most web sites were based on complete HTML pages; each user action required that the page be re-loaded from the server (or a new page loaded). This process is inefficient, as reflected by the user experience: all page content disappears then reappears, etc. Each time a page is reloaded due to a partial change, all of the content must be re-sent instead of only the changed information. This can place additional load on the server and use excessive bandwidth.

Asynchronous loading of content first became practical when Java applets were introduced in the first version of the Java language in 1995. These allow compiled client-side code to load data asynchronously from the web server after a web page is loaded.[3] In 1996, Internet Explorer introduced the iframe element to HTML, which also enabled asynchronous loading.[4] In 1999, Microsoft utilized its iframe technology to dynamically update the news stories and stock quotes on the default page for Internet Explorer (http://home.microsoft.com). In April 2000 Microsoft filed a patent on the basic Ajax technology, which was granted in June 2006, related to ASP.[5] In 1999, Microsoft created the XMLHTTP ActiveX control in Internet Explorer 5, which was later adopted by Mozilla, Safari, Opera and other browsers as the XMLHttpRequest JavaScript object.[4][6] Microsoft has adopted the native XMLHttpRequest model as of Internet Explorer 7, though the ActiveX version is still supported. The utility of background HTTP requests to the server and asynchronous web technologies remained fairly obscure until it started appearing in full scale online applications such as Outlook Web Access (2000)[7] and Oddpost (2002), and later, Google made a wide deployment of Ajax with Gmail (2004) and Google Maps (2005).[8]

The term Ajax was coined on February 18, 2005 by Jesse James Garrett in an article entitled "Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications", based on techniques used on Google web pages.[1]

On April 5, 2006 the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released the first draft specification for the XMLHttpRequest object in an attempt to create an official web standard.[8]

Technologies

The term Ajax has come to represent a broad group of web technologies that can be used to implement a web application that communicates with a server in the background, without interfering with the current state of the page. In the article that coined the term Ajax,[1] Jesse James Garrett explained that the following technologies are incorporated:

  • HTML (or XHTML) and CSS for presentation
  • The Document Object Model (DOM) for dynamic display of and interaction with data
  • XML for the interchange of data, and XSLT for its manipulation
  • The XMLHttpRequest object for asynchronous communication
  • JavaScript to bring these technologies together

Since then, however, there have been a number of developments in the technologies used in an Ajax application, and the definition of the term Ajax. In particular, it has been noted that JavaScript is not the only client-side scripting language that can be used for implementing an Ajax application; other languages such as VBScript are also capable of the required functionality.[2][9] JavaScript is the most popular language for Ajax programming due to its inclusion in and compatibility with the majority of modern web browsers. Also, XML is not required for data interchange and therefore XSLT is not required for the manipulation of data. JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is often used as an alternative format for data interchange,[10] although other formats such as preformatted HTML or plain text can also be used.[11]

Drawbacks

  • In pre-HTML5 browsers, pages dynamically created using successive Ajax requests do not automatically register themselves with the browser's history engine, so clicking the browser's "back" button may not return the browser to an earlier state of the Ajax-enabled page, but may instead return to the last full page visited before it. Workarounds include the use of invisible iframes to trigger changes in the browser's history and changing the URL fragment identifier (the part of a URL after the '#') when Ajax is run and monitoring it for changes.[12][13]
    • However, HTML5 provides an extensive API standard for working with the browser's history engine.[14]
  • Dynamic web page updates also make it difficult to bookmark and return to a particular state of the application. Solutions to this problem exist, many of which again use the URL fragment identifier.[12][13]
    • The solution provided by HTML5 for the above problem also applies for this.[14]
  • Depending on the nature of the Ajax application, dynamic page updates may interfere disruptively with user interactions, especially if working on an unstable Internet connection. For instance, editing a search field may trigger a query to the server for search completions, but the user may not know that a search completion popup is forthcoming, and if the internet connection is slow, the popup list may show up at an inconvenient time, when the user has already proceeded to do something else.
  • Because most web crawlers do not execute JavaScript code,[15] publicly indexable web applications should provide an alternative means of accessing the content that would normally be retrieved with Ajax, thereby allowing search engines to index it.
  • Any user whose browser does not support JavaScript or XMLHttpRequest, or simply has this functionality disabled, will not be able to properly use pages which depend on Ajax. Devices such as smart phones and PDAs may not have support for the required technologies, though this is decreasingly an issue. The only way to let the user carry out functionality is to fall back to non-JavaScript methods. This can be achieved by making sure links and forms can be resolved properly and do not rely solely on Ajax.[16]
  • Similarly, some web applications which use Ajax are built in a way that cannot be read by screen-reading technologies, such as JAWS. The WAI-ARIA standards provide a way to provide hints in such a case.[17]
  • Screen readers that are able to use Ajax may still not be able to properly read the dynamically generated content.[18]
  • The same origin policy prevents some Ajax techniques from being used across domains,[8] although the W3C has a draft of the XMLHttpRequest object that would enable this functionality.[19] Methods exist to sidestep this security feature by using a special Cross Domain Communications channel embedded as an iframe within a page,[20] or by the use of JSONP.
  • Ajax-powered interfaces may dramatically increase the number of user-generated requests to web servers and their back-ends (e.g. databases). This can lead to longer response times and/or additional hardware needs.
  • The asynchronous, callback-style of programming required can lead to complex code that is hard to maintain, to debug[21] and to test.[22]

Functional

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Jesse James Garrett (2005-02-18). "Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications". AdaptivePath.com. http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000385.php. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  2. ^ a b Ullman, Chris (March 2007). Beginning Ajax. wrox. ISBN 978-0-470-10675-4. http://www.wrox.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-303217.html. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  3. ^ "Code Samples and Apps: Applets". Sun Microsystems, Inc.. http://java.sun.com/applets/. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  4. ^ a b Hinchcliffe, Dion (June 2006). Real-World Ajax: Secrets of the Masters. SYS-CON Media. ISBN 978-0-9777622-0-0. http://ajaxdevelopersjournal.com/read/338113.htm. 
  5. ^ US patent 7058944, Thomas Alan Sponheim & Kris Owens, "Event driven system and method for retrieving and displaying information", issued 2006-6-6 
  6. ^ "Dynamic HTML and XML: The XMLHttpRequest Object". Apple Inc. http://developer.apple.com/internet/webcontent/xmlhttpreq.html. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  7. ^ Hopmann, Alex. "Story of XMLHTTP". Alex Hopmann’s Blog. http://www.alexhopmann.com/story-of-xmlhttp/. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "A Brief History of Ajax". Aaron Swartz. 2005-12-22. http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/ajaxhistory. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  9. ^ But use of VBScript assumes the target browser supports it.
  10. ^ "JavaScript Object Notation". Apache.org. http://tapestry.apache.org/tapestry4.1/ajax/json.html. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  11. ^ "Speed Up Your Ajax-based Apps with JSON". DevX.com. http://www.devx.com/webdev/Article/32651. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  12. ^ a b "Why use Ajax?". InterAKT. 2005-11-10. http://www.interaktonline.com/support/articles/Details/Ajax:+Asynchronously+Moving+Forward-Why+use+Ajax%3F.html?id_art=36&id_asc=309. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  13. ^ a b "Deep Linking for AJAX". http://blog.onthewings.net/2009/04/08/deep-linking-for-ajax/. 
  14. ^ a b "HTML5 specification". http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/history.html. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  15. ^ Prokoph, Andreas (2007-05-08). "Help Web crawlers efficiently crawl your portal sites and Web sites". IBM. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/x-sitemaps/index.html. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  16. ^ Quinsey, Peter. "User-proofing Ajax". http://www.alistapart.com/articles/userproofingajax. 
  17. ^ "WAI-ARIA Overview". http://www.w3.org/. http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria.php. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  18. ^ Edwards, James (2006-05-05). "Ajax and Screenreaders: When Can it Work?". sitepoint.com. http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/ajax-screenreaders-work. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  19. ^ "Access Control for Cross-Site Requests". World Wide Web Consortium. http://dev.w3.org/2006/waf/access-control/. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  20. ^ "Secure Cross-Domain Communication in the Browser". The Architecture Journal (MSDN). http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb735305.aspx. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  21. ^ Cuthbertson, Tim. "What is asynchronous programming, and why is it so damn awkward?". http://gfxmonk.net/. http://gfxmonk.net/2010/07/04/defer-taming-asynchronous-javascript-with-coffeescript.html#1. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  22. ^ "Selenium documentation: Fetching a Page". http://seleniumhq.org/. http://seleniumhq.org/docs/03_webdriver.html#fetching-a-page. Retrieved 2011-10-06. "It’s worth noting that if your page uses a lot of AJAX on load then WebDriver may not know when it has completely loaded. If you need to ensure such pages are fully loaded then you can use an Explicit and Implicit Waits." 

External links


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