AJAX & The Enterprise End-Game

A friend and colleague who runs operations and technology at a financial services firm in New York City recently passed along some thoughts on AJAX in the context of their use in an enterprise.

When you are preparing your future software development strategy, remember that AJAX is not the end game. It’s a pit stop on the way to better things.
This may seem obvious to a small group of programmers that understand how to leverage DHMTL and XML/HTTP to do things that most of us never imagined in a page-to-page browser paradigm. However, “popular” press and buzz in the software community glamorizes the use of AJAX as if it is some sort of new frontier. AJAX is not the new frontier. AJAX is a stop-gap. AJAX is one of several creative ways to deal with the extensive limitations of the browser-based world as we know it. Now that we are beginning to overcome the page-to-page mentality, AJAX is a nice toolset to leverage in the near-term while we wait for the big boys to develop something viable that gives us this highly-specialized skill.
Don’t get me wrong, AJAX is great. We deploy it in our business every day. We leverage it the way many other people do to slowly creep away from the painful experience of paging in the browser. However, we leverage it is a transitional platform, not as the end game.
When you surf around the web on the latest AJAX frameworks and implementations, just remember that in the not-so-distant-future, you will be adapting much of your AJAX skillset for something better. In a few years, we will all be chuckling about the use of AJAX for dynamic interaction the way we do about using CGI for transactions. People will still use AJAX and people still use CGI but it’s only a short-term solution.
All of the above is critical because within organizations, the time and resources invested in training and education paths is very important. Do we let people tinker and see what happens? Do we start to formally train them? Do we put standards in place? And most importantly, is this the right strategic bet? For most organizations, their technology groups simply take what their vendors hand to them (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc.).
Above all else, it’s important to view AJAX less as an end-game than as a tool in the larger context of delivering richer, more intuitive experiences to our users. To give it more weight than that – i.e. to perceive it as an end in itself – could prove to be a mistake.

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