Ajax has changed the web. There’s no doubt about that. It’s made the internet a happier place to be (well, when it’s used well) and has helped fuel the Web 2.0 movement to make it what it is today.
But what I’m left wondering is - why?
No, I’m not saying that Ajax is overrated or that it’s not really useful (I wouldn’t be writing for this site if I were).
What I’m going for is more of why Ajax is as popular as it is and what it is about the way we use the web that makes it such a perfect fit.
When it first came on the scene, it was a neat toy. Don’t deny it, you tried it out to make something like a auto-completion search box or pulling in content from a server-side text file.
You were happy that there was something as cool as this that had the possibility to update content on command. Unfortunately, this is where some stopped. They saw it as this “toy” and dropped it like any other web-based feature, thinking it probably wouldn’t catch on.
Good thing they were wrong.
Other developers, ones fascinated by the potential Ajax had, took things even further. They saw what was really at the core of what made Ajax special.
They saw that, with Ajax, they could break free. Browsers had limited them to the “request a page and let it load” philosophy for so long they’d thought it was all there was.
Jesse James Garrett showed them different - he cracked the door open and showed a sliver of light to these hard-working souls and told them that there was another way.
This is what the “Ajax difference” really is - a way to break free of the oppression of the normal page load, a simple path to more advanced functionality, and the one thing that anyone that uses a computer wants at all times - a fast, responsive application that “just works”.
Ajax has changed the face of the web forever.
Save for some of the browser enhancements and a few other technologies, I dare to say that it’s had the most significant impact on the way we use the internet in it’s short life (well, the life as Ajax as coined by J.J.G. back in February 18th of 2005).
It allows us to realize our web-based dreams, one XMLHttpRequest at a time.