AJAX developers drive Web innovation - what about the browser makers?

AJAX experts Alex Russell and Joe Walker urge browser makers to take a more active role in the AJAX community’s efforts to bring advanced features to Web applications. We caught up with them at The AJAX Experience East conference in Boston.

[October 25, 2007] - The makers of Web browsers must be encouraged to push Web innovation, AJAX experts Alex Russell and Joe Walker yesterday told attendees at The AJAX Experience East conference in Boston, Mass. Their comments come as interoperability across varied browsers once again becomes a primary developer concern.

Walker, best known as the developer of DWR (Direct Web Remoting), heads Web-AJAX consultancy Getahead Ltd. Alex Russell, project lead for the Dojo Toolkit, is director of R&D for SitePen, Inc.

With the advent of AJAX, a number of development frameworks have arisen to bring improved interactivity to Web applications, but browser makers, according to Russell and Walker, are staying on the sidelines, leaving the brunt of innovation work to the open-source AJAX developer community. Moreover, they suggest, AJAX developers are required to create many workarounds and patches, to bring popular AJAX traits to different standard browsers. AJAX frameworks and toolkits include Dojo, DWR, Prototype and many others.

“We are patching over issues,” Russell said. “We have just been brutal pragmatists.” Developers made AJAX work, Russell said, but the resulting software is “very brittle.”

“We are looking at the evolution of browsers and we are scared. Standards bodies aren’t taking up the slack,” he said.

For his part, Walker asked a series of questions, “What if browser makers used Dojo [or similar] as a ‘to-do’ list? What would the landscape look like then?”

And: “How much can we twist and mangle what we’ve got to get what we want?”

The Good Old Days?
 Russell and Walker said they were aware that an earlier, more competitive era of Web browsers was not universally popular. In fact, Microsoft’s Web browser became an integral part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust case against the big software maker.  Walker said he hoped to create a better dialog between browsers makers - which include Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple -  and the developer community. Russell said the CSS community points the way toward just such a dialog with vendors.

Said Russell, “We had this messy evolution of browsers where they started out with real competition, but then [vendors] used standards bodies as a political Jujitsu system.” Since the advent of a few “monopoly browsers,” Russell said, innovation has stopped moving.

Russell urged The AJAX Experience attendees to tell standards groups what they wanted. For a very pragmatic bunch that is eager to quickly solve technical problems, he admitted, that may require a change in mindset. - Jack Vaughan


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One Response to “AJAX developers drive Web innovation - what about the browser makers?”

  1. Fallon Massey Says:

    If browsers were made properly, AJAX wouldn’t need so many different suppliers. The fact is that AJAX needs to integral and seamless to browsers just the way GET & POST are.

    Then couple that with true browser surface control, and you eliminate a lot of what Flash & SilverLight bring to the party, by giving it to everyone.

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