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Early AJAX Office Applications

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the proof-of-concept dept.

Technology 426

prostoalex writes "Perhaps many, who viewed Zimbra presentation from yesterday, thought about other office-related applications they would like to see moved to the Web. Richard McManus on ZDNet provides a list of the currently available AJAX apps. Did you know there was AJAX word processor, AJAX spreadsheet, AJAX calendar, AJAX presentation-building software, AJAX e-mail client, AJAX note-taking software and some other interesting applications, which, deployed on your local server, do not need installation and "just work" in a browser window?"

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426 comments

Yes but... (4, Funny)

yobbo (324595) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674209)

...does it keep my kitchen clean?

Re:Yes but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674239)

I don't know about that, but if there is one thing I learned from Cheech & Chong its AJAX can be snorted for a quick pick-me-up. That and don't look at Strawberry's birt hmark.

ajax blog ajax blog (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674210)

I don't know which word I hate more: ajax or blog.

Which one is it?

P.S. my ass crack is sweaty.

Meh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674218)

I'm still waiting for an AJAX-based browser. Just think about it! The ability to use a browser without having to install it! You just browse on over to the site!

Re:Meh (1)

Scoria (264473) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674222)

Yes, and perhaps the cache sanitization utility could be called AJAX!

I'll be here all week, unfortunately.

Re:Meh - Is it such a silly idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674306)

Is it such a silly idea? An AJAX browser that was carefully written to work with every browser could be very useful. Applications could be written just to work for that browser and then with a simple re-direct your application would work on any browser! Another strategy could be to write only for the latest and most popular browsers and then if any other browser tries to access your page just re-direct through an AJAX browser.

Re:Meh - Is it such a silly idea? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674322)

Sounds an awful lot like what Java applets were supposed to give you, before crappy implementations of the early JVMs killed them.

Re:Meh - Is it such a silly idea? (3, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674360)

Is it such a silly idea?

Yes. For rather obvious security reasons, XMLHttpRequest is limited to making requests to the host the script originated from. Also it would be way slower than a normal web browser. Plus completely inaccessible, which is illegal in many places.

Another strategy could be to write only for the latest and most popular browsers and then if any other browser tries to access your page just re-direct through an AJAX browser.

That falls apart when the browser that isn't the "latest and most popular" doesn't support the technologies your AJAX browser uses.

Re:Meh (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674345)

Someone interested in porting firefox to AJAX? hey come on, i heard its ui is mainly made out of javascipt and some strange xml! and the rest happens in the backend with svg and images. so what?

P.S.: This was meant to be *funny*. So DON'T try this at home. Yeah, i know your dark geeky side is coming up. But please! I repeat: DON'T DO IT!

Java applets (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674219)

Remember java applets?! They were suppose to do these kind of things...

Re:Java applets (1)

Muppski (918156) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674262)

They did? Must have missed that, People dont seam to like Java applets anyways. Can't put my finger on what they dont like with that

Re:Java applets (4, Insightful)

RenatoRam (446720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674420)

For one the fact that the starting VM can bring down to a halt even a semi-fast machine.

Or the fact that applets are SLOW, whereas (for example) gmail and googlemaps are FAST.

Or maybe it's that java guis just plain suck in pretty much every aspect (look, feel, functionality, ergonomy).

Oh, and the fact that java is not installed on machines anymore (by default), whereas a browser is (even if maybe a louse one as IE6).

Dunno, choose one :-)

Re:Java applets (1)

mcbridematt (544099) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674327)

Sun screwed it with their crappy and bloated VM...

Microsoft JVM feels much faster than Sun VM. I remember one game by Jagex which made my 1.9GHz system (Sun VM) feel worse than M$ JVM on my Cyrix MII PR233 of years gone by.

I used JamVM for my website instead of Sun too, because Sun was 37% slower of what just amounted to a blog with a MySQL backend! It was also harder to downsize since it wasn't built for footprint unlike JamVM.

Re:Java applets (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674393)

Back in the 1.1.8 VM days, the Microsoft VM was faster than the Sun VM.

However since then the Sun VM has become much much more performant.

Never mind that Jagex now writes Java games (Runescape) that utilise OpenGL (via JOGL or GL4Java I imagine) and I really have a lot of doubts about how well those technologies integrates with the Microsoft VM.

JamVM looks like a really neat thing though, and I will have to try it out sometime. However it is merely interpretive, like the pre 1.2 Sun VMs, so whilst it has optimisations, I am wondering how it can be faster than the Sun Hotspot VM.

If there is anything that we can agree on, it is that Apple's VM sucks.

Re:Java applets (3, Insightful)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674349)

The problem with Java applets is they require too much to be installed on the client side. This has big security and performance implications, leaving aside the quality of the available JVMs. Nevertheless, if AJAX had not come along, I think we would have revisited how to make use of Java practicable. With AJAX, most of the application logic remains on the server side. This drastically improves the ease of implementation.

Re:Java applets (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674397)

here we have a great example: http://map24.com/ [map24.com]
They once had everything in the applet, but moved the column on the left side out of it.
Just try it out (use the java applet that opens when you search for a location or route).

And i must say i liked it.

Now all i have to ask is: Wich one will be quicker and use less bandwidth? Java or Javascript+XML? ;)

Re:Java applets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674454)

It's a shame that Java applets did not succeed because they will always be more versatile. Case in point, the distance measuring tool (ruler icon) on http://map24.com/ [map24.com] that parent poster linked to.

Admittedly the JVM deployment issue is a pain but I'm not sure it was in Microsoft's to lessen that. And so we now have Ajax instead.

Flash Apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674419)

Theres the occasional web-app being done in flash too. Not really of interest to slashdot's general audience, but http://webbeader.com/ [webbeader.com] is an excellent example of a flash, web based app. It has features not easily integrated into by desktop programs, like automated sharing of files.

Re:Java applets (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674439)

In fact there is a full office suite from Thinkfree recently shipped. Its pure java and commercial. I used their 2.2 version offline on OS X and Win32.

3.0 version runs in browser. http://www.thinkfree.com/ [thinkfree.com]

Web Applications (4, Interesting)

MadX (99132) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674220)

I really like the way that Web apps are starting to make a comeback.
Yes, it's true that there will always be problems with compatibility in browsers,
but at the end of the day, to make the underlying OS insignificant, it makes the adoption of alternate OS's become easier.

Who knows, maybe the pressure will cause other proprietary companies to start looking at the way they
do business ? A pipe dream now ... but so was flying to the moon !!

Re:Web Applications (4, Interesting)

trentrez (918830) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674384)

Forgive me for saying this, as my understanding of the X Windows model is limited, but aren't rich web applications like this moving towards a server client model similar to how X works. Except in this instance we have the web server serving the applications' content and the browser acting as the client.

It's quite ironic that all this talk of the OS becoming insignificant is just yet us piling another layer on top of our systems. Shouldn't more effort be focused on making a standard and open windowing system so that developers have one windowing GUI to think about when making their apps (instead of the current big three, namely MS Windows, X Windows and Mac OS X). Yes web apps address this, but in my opinion the way they are approaching the solution is completely backwards.

Fair enough these web apps allow you to access your program on the move, allowing you to only worry about whether the terminal you are sat at has a nice browser that supports JavaScript, but think about Exchange server when coupled with Outlook Web Access - we suddenly see that these rich AJAX apps are nothing new and are in fact a step in the wrong direction. We should be focused on bringing everything down a level - not piling everything inside a web browser.

Imagine an OS model where you have a server running at a nice secure location with all your applications running 24/7 then you have a standard windowing desktop client OS that connects to your server to bring up your apps and data where ever you are, be it at work, home or sat on a train on your PDA. I think having a windowing system that would allow this would be far more advantageous than using either remote desktop (VNC etc) or rich web apps (Java, AJAX etc).

Webservices gone mad (4, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674223)

Webservices were going to rule the computing world. You'd download apps as you needed them from vendors, then they would automatically bill you for the rental, but only for the time spent using the actual product.

That idea died a horrible death, despite Microsoft's best efforts to make the Network the Computer.

Now webservices are back, but instead of building miniature application control building blocks, the entire application interface is downloaded to your browser. Everything immediate runs client-side and anything that needs a backend is sent upstream to the server. No more trying to keep a network connection alive between the client PC and the network server. Everything can be kept very asynchronous.

It's no surprise that this is the way things are evolving. Even the first CGI programs foretold this type of usage pattern. You'd get an interface on the client side and the heavy processing would be done on the server. But now with faster connections and the ability to run more stuff on the client side, a lot of processing can be and has been pushed off the server and onto the client browser.

It's very interesting, and quite a pleasant break from the barrage of boring sysadmin-specific stories here.

Re:Webservices gone mad (2, Informative)

Ewan (5533) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674266)

Surely Sun said the network was the computer?

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674280)

You are right. That was Sun. But with regards to trying to actually implement usable web-based services, it has been Microsoft who has been the most vocal and active member of the computing community. They are at the helm of all sorts of initatives like SOAP, UPnP, now ASP.Net and others no doubt coming. They were the ones who tried to put actual application controls directly into IE (ActiveX) so that web-borne applications would have full access to the client system.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674380)

They were the ones who tried to put actual application controls directly into IE (ActiveX) so that web-borne applications would have full access to the client system.

Sun did that with Applets in 1995, only with a much stricter security system in place.

They are at the helm of all sorts of initatives like SOAP, UPnP, now ASP.Net

ASP.Net are an initiative of what? An awkward merging of two technologies so that ASP developers won't be frightened away?

Re:Webservices gone mad (4, Interesting)

trezor (555230) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674458)

ASP.Net are an initiative of what? An awkward merging of two technologies so that ASP developers won't be frightened away?

Say again? I've done all sorts of programming from Motorola assembly to php and java, both professionaly and purely on a hobby-basis, so I consider my sellf a more than competent and experienced enough developer. I've also worked quite a bit with ASP.NET.

Sure ASP.NET may not be the right tool for every job, but then again what is? Making web-applications with ASP.NET feels like breeze compared to doing the same stuff in say php. The fact that it's event-based with a solid foundation making that the underlying protocols and technology transparent to developer, actually means that you can immidiately focus on the application logic, and doesn't have to worry about every god damn thing involving web-communication.

Sure, I know how that works, I know the low-level protocols, I can implement it if I have to, but the fact that I don't need to feels damn good. The .NET Framework supplies tons of goodies for those who know how to take advantage of it.

For instance, directly coupled database to webpage data-linking, including the ability to manipulate date with next to no programming. Please tell me how this can be done in less than 10 lines of code in php. As a developer, I'm really happy that I don't have to rewrite the same DB-logic, reference the same db-field names, link them to similary named html-controls, and vice-verce for updates. It makes my life simpler. What's wrong with that?

Dismissing ASP.NET as something that only unskilled developers would use is ignorant at best.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674273)

"That idea died a horrible death, despite Microsoft's best efforts to make the Network the Computer."

You're thinking of Sun ("The Network is the Computer". Microsoft doesn't want network applications to take off because it undermines the strength of their platform.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674295)

I'm going to just point you to this webpage and let you come to your own conclusions.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/webservices/ [microsoft.com]

Re:Webservices gone mad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674370)

Which is far more recent.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674372)

Sun coined the slogan in 1987 [siliconindia.com] . Even when Windows 95 was launched nine years later Microsoft hadn't realized the power of the net and was taken by surprise, Bill Gates has admitted as much himself in interviews.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674378)

I was referring to this in my reply:

"Microsoft doesn't want network applications to take off because it undermines the strength of their platform."

I was not referring to the slogan misattribution (which, frankly, is hardly the most important point in my original post).

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

TummyX (84871) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674426)

That's a pretty lame example. Web services, from Microsoft's point of view, will allow rich (hint: windows) applications to programmatically communicate with websites. For example, a Windows application that allows you to do shopping (without a browser) on Amazon by calling amazon's API.

Web services complement but aren't themselves web based applications like the ones in the article.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674450)

I think it depends on your perspective. If you are looking for platform independence, then Microsoft's solutions are obviously not going to fall into the realm of what you consider "web services". But web applications, as I mentioned way back in my original post, can be anything from simple client-side Javascript utilities (primitive calculators come to mind) and simple CGI programs (like the example in the CGI chapter of Learning Perl) all the way up to full blown applications which rely on a slew of technologies. Microsoft provides a set of technologies as well, but these may or may not work properly on non-Windows/non-IE systems. But the technologies are out there and provide web-borne services that are more full-featured than barebones Javascript.

I agree that Microsoft's web services are very limiting for those seeking to use non-Microsoft platforms. However, just because it comes from a vendor I may not like and restricts me from using non-vendor platforms, I don't agree that you can disqualify the technology on that basis.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674348)

That idea died a horrible death, despite Microsoft's best efforts to make the Network the Computer.

As others have pointed out, the Network is the Computer was actually Suns slogan. I believe Microsoft did everything in their power to destroy that idea and the idea of platform independence, because at the time they had nothing to compete with in that area, and if it took off it would reduce the importance of Windows and Office. See for instance their immediate attempt to destroy cross-platform Java by introducing Windows platform specifics in the core libraries.

User interface components seems to be the new preferred way to try to lock customers and users in to a specific platform. Previously it was the OS and the apps, but now their relevance is fading. So now we get SWT from IBM trying to triumph Swing in the Java world, and Microsoft trying to get developers dependent on WinForms for instance.

For all the hype, AJAX is just another attempt to plug the feature gap in using web based interfaces (XUL, Java Server Faces, JavaScript...). I think developers are using a cobbled together approach based on web pages + lots of scipting and extra libraries, when perhaps they should considering going all the way and do a heavy client instead. This would reduce complexity and development time and still allow reasonable platform independence. These days they can be just as easily deployed and automatically updated when the server changes, for instance Java Web Start [sun.com] .

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674373)

I was using the wrong slogan, but I don't think it's true that Microsoft was wholeheartedly behind destroying web services. As I mentioned in another post, Microsoft has actually been one of the leaders in developing the protocols that allow web services. The difference between their vision and "your" (the general "you") vision is that instead of seeing web services as a means of freeing yourself from a single operating system or browser vendor, Microsoft sees web services as a way of freeing you from your desk and allowing you to do your work anywhere that you've got an internet connection, on Windows PCs (naturally).

That's why ActiveX was their big idea back in 1994. You'd just download the ActiveX control to let you host applications directly in your browser, and if you needed to move somewhere else, you could just get that ActiveX control easily off the web at another computer.

Their vision is Windows everywhere, but that doesn't preclude them from seeing distributed computing as the antithesis to this goal. They see platform independence as the antithesis, which is why they killed Java and why they took on Netscape head-on. Now they can see that they can hold on to their marketshare by simply supplying better tools and better libraries to developers. The developers will keep the users on Windows, Microsoft just needs to make the OS and tools attractive to the programmers and the lock in is automatic.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674447)

I think whole .NET deal and billions spent to product/platform has one purpose: services.

You would wonder what would they do if .NET really becomes multiplatform. Well, their recent act against Mono guys explains a lot in this purpose.

Re:Webservices gone mad (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674448)

Webservices were going to rule the computing world. You'd download apps as you needed them from vendors, then they would automatically bill you for the rental, but only for the time spent using the actual product.

My understanding was that "web services" referred to the SOAP (XML)-based information services that first appeared in the early 2000's; they didn't provide an application, per se, just information with a standardised API and return format. So, for example, I wrote a simple Perl script that used SOAP to take music information from Amazon's database and store it in a file; another script wrote the information to my MP3s (could have done it automatically, but I needed to verify the information was correct).

The Java Applets, by contrast, were effectively over-the-web applications.

Foo (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674227)

I cleaned up my working environment with AJAX!

AJAX Cleaning power (3, Insightful)

cheezemonkhai (638797) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674229)

Stop with the acronyms for goodness sakes.

AJAX is a floor cleaning product.

I'm sorry to say this, but there are too many people who think something is cool because it uses the latest hip technology. Nobody cares that it is AJAX, they just care that it works well and does what they want.

The sooner OSS and other people writing software out there realise this the better.

Rant over

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (4, Insightful)

mpcooke3 (306161) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674257)

It amused me that to rebel against the Acronym ridden J2EE crap someone coined the phrase "POJO" - Plain Old Java Objects, just to make it sound more sexy.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674269)

Stop with the acronyms for goodness sakes.
AJAX is a floor cleaning product.
[...]
The sooner OSS and other people writing software out there realise this the better.

I don't see what old soft shoes have to do with software.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (2)

BMazurek (137285) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674297)

I'm sorry, but just because you rant, doesn't mean you should be modded up.

Ajax is a floor cleaning product. AJAX is an acronym standing for something different. The fact that the two have a similar name is irrelevent. Thinking differently means you should probably go for a CAT scan (no, not "cat scan") or perhaps a PET scan (no, not "pet scan"). Perhaps you should go stand on a soap box in front of your local city hall with a bull horn and expound the virtues of a non-acronymic world.

Give me a break.

You say nobody cares that it is AJAX, but they care that it works well and does what they want. If no one cares about the technology behind a good user experience, there will be no good user experience.

Technology, by and large, is an iterative improvement upon previous technology. Failure to recognize this means your genes should probably have been relegated to the non-tool using part of the animal kingdom.

Grow up.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674430)

Perhaps you should go stand on a soap box in front of your local city hall with a bull horn and expound the virtues of a non-acronymic world.
he should start a new society and call it:

"Association for Stipulating Single Words Invariably Pertain to Exactly Single Subject"

to be known henceforth as ASSWIPESS

it's perfectly fine because there are two S's in ASSWIPESS. otherwise, oh the irony!

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (1)

Bjrn (4836) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674298)

AJAX is a floor cleaning product.

And here I was thinking Ajax were two characters in Homer's Iliad. :-)

You are right that people in general don't care. But this is slashdot, the site with news for nerds, and I suspect that many slashdot readers do care.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (0)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674299)

"AJAX" as an acronym is completely annoying.

"Asynchronous Javascript and XML" -- but there's often no XML in there at all.

You see, the acronym idiots needed an 'x' in there -- AJA! didn't sound cool enough.

So they through in 'XML' to get the X.

Better to have thrown in 'xylophone' or "xanthax" or "xanthan gum", because then you'd think -- oh, I see, its just some stupid acronaming.

This is the sort of thing that I despise. I wish I could hit that guy over the head with a brick.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674325)

What are you talking about? If there's no XML, it's just browser scripting (the 'A' stands for asynchronous as in an asynchronous web service, aka, XMLHttpRequest.)
You're just talking about JavaScript.

Look a little closer at Sarissa [sourceforge.net] and prototype [conio.net] and see what's under the hood...surely some XML will pop up.

You said:
"...oh, I see, its just some stupid acronaming.

This is the sort of thing that I despise. I wish I could hit that guy over the head with a brick."


So now do I get to hit _you_ over the head with a brick?

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (1)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674433)

I don't think you get to hit me over the head:

XMLHttpRequest is only one of the methods of accomplishing asynchronous communication. A hidden IFrame is another technique (which Google, the master of this sort of thing uses -- or so I hear).

The IFrame doens't have to use XML, right? Sometime it does, but it doesn't have to.

So XML looks entirely optional.

Here's a reference: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/javascript/2002/02 /08/iframe.html [oreillynet.com]

That's why I think the 'X' in XML is pure, masturbatory acronaming.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (5, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674366)

The sooner OSS and other people writing software out there realise this the better.

That's right. Quit wasting time naming things, and get to work, you layabouts! We don't need no stinking names for things. If I want to use that spreadsheet I'll just say, give me that, uhh, counting thing.

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (4, Funny)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674367)

AJAX is a floor cleaning product.

Yes. And a Greek play [wikipedia.org] , a Greek hero [wikipedia.org] , an anti-aircraft missile [wikipedia.org] and a soccer club [wikipedia.org] from Amsterdam.

All the good words were used up long ago. Maybe it's time to stop using vowels and open up the possibility of words like krggggnx!

Re:AJAX Cleaning power (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674455)

Maybe it's time to stop using vowels and open up the possibility of words like krggggnx!

Your native tongue is Arabic, right?

(Yeah I know it has vowels [and semi-vowels] like any other language, however, not in the written form.)

As an alternative suggestion, what's wrong with a descriptive Brainf*ck representation of (a given) app's nature and intended purpose? Zero clashes with existing namespace, quaranteed.

(I'd love to give illustrative examples, but /.'s lamenessfilter seems to panic at the sight of Brainf*ck. How lame.)

The Devil's Dictionary (2.0): AJAX (1)

XNormal (8617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674401)

AJAX [eod.com] , noun
An acronym for the phrase "Accessibility Just Ain't eXciting."

Well... (4, Interesting)

omgpotatoes (916336) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674231)

..hello GoogleOS! Platfrom-independent, all online, all the applications you need. Who cares if it's viewed out of IE?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674357)

Who cares if it's viewed out of IE?

Those who want to keep their computer clean and data safe.

Network failures. (3, Insightful)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674240)

Great, so now the network being down means I can get absolutely no work done.

I'd like this if they sold $20 dumb terminals to use it, but I paid a lot of money for a computer that can run applications locally without constantly going to the network.

And just in case they mentioned that that's not a concern in one of those 40 linked pages, no, I didn't read all the articles, so feel free to yell at me now.

Re:Network failures. (4, Interesting)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674255)

I'd like this if they sold $20 dumb terminals to use it, but I paid a lot of money for a computer that can run applications locally without constantly going to the network.

Most people - the overwhelming majority - are not competent to use a general purpose computer. They don't understand about basic things like security and backups. Consequently their machines are crawling with viruses and trojans, and when eventually they have a hardware problem they lose, in many cases, months or even years of work.

For these people, a thin client web appliance using applications hosted remotely on machines maintained by competent people makes a huge amount of sense. And, frankly, that's 90+% of the whole population, so this is potentially a very big market.

Re:Network failures. (2, Interesting)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674414)

Most people - the overwhelming majority - are not competent to use a general purpose computer.

Suddenly, I heard angelic harps. This way lies heaven! Let the 90% use their computer like a webTV unit or thin client or whatnot, do whatever they need to do with webapps, the pressure will be off of the remaining 10% of us to dumb down the computer as we know it to drool-proof status...and everyone will be *happy*!

No, wait, the codeine's wearing off...

Todo Lists application in AJAX (5, Informative)

Roullian (156510) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674241)

There's also an Open Source "Todo Lists" application called Tudu Lists.

You can check it out on SourceForge : http://tudu.sourceforge.net [sourceforge.net] .

And you can use the live site : http://tudu.ess.ch [tudu.ess.ch] .

Everything's free and Open Source (GPL), so you can check out how it works.

Sadly, doesn't work with Konqi, Mozilla (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674242)

Sadly, the spreadsheet doesn't work with Konqi at all. None of the text you enter either shows up or gets saved. In Mozilla

  • Can enter fields.
  • Cursor key navigation does not work
  • Can't alter column widths by dragging or any other obvious way
  • If text entry gets too long, text entry box grows a scrollbar which obscures the content.
  • If text content wraps, field height grows but field label height does not! No, this behaviour is inconsistent: sometimes it does.

I'm carrying on playing, because this is potentially very, very cool technology indeed.

Re:Sadly, doesn't work with Konqi, Mozilla (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674271)

Further to that, Konqi can't load a spreadsheet created in Mozilla. Still playing...

Re:Sadly, doesn't work with Konqi, Mozilla (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674288)

I'm carrying on playing, because this is potentially very, very cool technology indeed.

It's interesting, but more in a dog which can talk kind of way. It's not what the dog has to say, it's the fact that it can talk at all.

There's some fairly impressive AJAX stuff about, but if you were to consider, say, the Google Maps interface as an offline, desktop application, it's not so great. Look at Google Earth as an example of what can be done in a modern application - similar data, a considerably more advanced interface. Try doing that in DHTML.

The main, useful aspects of AJAX applications are that you don't need to download and install a particular program, they're (by definition) network-connected and multi-user, are vaguely cross-platform and can be used simply by going to a particular web page. For some things, such as webmail, this is great - for others, like the linked word-processor and spreadsheet, the whole thing seems more like a giant hack.

I remember there being loads of work-in-progress office suites based on Java some years ago, and they seem to have almost completely died out - despite Java being a considerably more capable platform than DHTML.

If you want to use advanced software on the move, buy a laptop or install VNC or something. AJAX is useful, but it's not some grand panacea which will solve all the world's problems...

Sadly, doesn't work with Opera (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674333)

Opera 8.50, on Debian:

  • Can't view a spreadsheet created in Mozilla, in Opera.
  • Scrollbar obscures text entry box, all the time.
  • Can't see column headers.
  • Can't see grid.
  • Don't know if I'm creating any text, but if I am I can't see it.
  • Don't seem to be able to save a spreadsheet from Opera - if I click 'Save', and then, in Mozilla, reload my list of spreadsheets, the one created in Opera does not appear.

Sheesh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674258)

People have been doing this stuff using the same methodology since < 2003 and have been dealing with the pros and cons eversince. Convinsing PMs that the technology has potential was a lot of trouble then, but since the term AJAX was coined the situation has become the opposite; we are now trying to point out the pitfalls.


The power of buzzwords in people's minds is astonishing. Guess our brain is too dependent on abstraction/handles.

One thing to note ... (5, Informative)

pythonista (754333) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674260)

S5 is not an AJAX app. It uses plain JavaScript and some CSS. Nothing like XMLHttpRequest is used in S5. To create an S5 presentation, one needs only text editor. The javascript and CSS is only for the presentation and has nothing to do with the actual slide creation process.

Re:One thing to note ... (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674371)

Nothing like XMLHttpRequest is used in S5. To create an S5 presentation, one needs only text editor.

While it's true that S5 doesn't use XMLHttpRequest, why are you talking about text editors? You can write web applications using XMLHttpRequest with a text editor too. It's not some sort of binary thing that needs compilation and plugins, it's just Javascript that uses particular APIs.

Thin client 10 years late (2, Informative)

LQ (188043) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674272)

Anyone remember Sun 10 years ago banging on about Java thin clients and the end of the PC? I'm certainly seeing more and more customers who don't want to install software on their users' PCs. Centralised browser-accessed apps will eventually become the norm for commercial use.

My Java tip for the near future is Echo2 [nextapp.com] or something like it. Sophisticated AJAX without writing a line of HTML or JavaScript.

i'm all for webapps (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674275)

BUT.. i'm yet to be convinced they are at a stage they can take on an exe. I wouldn't want to start a major application to find some future release of IE breaks it horribly. i use wxpython for the moment it's the closest thing i've come across so far to being truely platform independant with all the bells and whistles.
i'd be majorly chuffed if i could so the same things via a web browser however.

Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (4, Insightful)

Frac (27516) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674277)

The Ajax apps all look extremely impressive, but I do believe inconsistent UI will eventually plateau the adoption. Developers love to play the artist when there's a clean slate, and everyone will have their own set of icons and widgets.

Developers need to understand that once you're over 25 years old, you don't care to learn brand new interfaces all over again. The closer it looks to something familiar (your Windows/Mac OS UI), the better. For God's sake, if it doesn't look at Windows, at least make the metaphors intuitive.

My recent pet peeve is tiny little icons, just for the sake of tiny little icons. I'm familiar with the standard "Open", "Save", "Copy", "Cut", "Paste", and "Print" icons. That saves real estate over text, and saves me time.

However, With monitors getting bigger and bigger, unique icons will NO LONGER OFFER THE SAME BENEFIT. I'm not going to hover my mouse pointer over every single 8-pixel-by-8-pixel icon you have, just to forget it the next time around because you lined up 50 of them on the toolbar like lucky charms. If there's room for text, and if that saves time, put the text in!

Re:Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674362)

The Ajax apps all look extremely impressive, but I do believe inconsistent UI will eventually plateau the adoption. Developers love to play the artist when there's a clean slate, and everyone will have their own set of icons and widgets.

Frankly, that's a completely bogus argument. Early X Windows applications had wildly inconsistent interfaces. Then, gradually, over time, people learned this was a bad idea, and people started developing user interface standards. Furthermore, as GUIs got more complex and GUI toolkits got better, the overhead of rolling your own became too much for most projects, so they tended to use toolkits.

The new web-based applications - call it DHTML, call it AJAX, call it what you will - will go through the same evolutionary process. Initially the GUI will be all over the place, later standards will emerge. It's noticeable that the numsum apps already load their user interface from a separate JavaScript file than their application 'engines'.

Over time we'll find people generating JavaScript+XML GUI libraries with standardised user interfaces, just like KDE and Gnome in the X Windows space. And we'll find projects adopting these both to make their products look more professional and because adopting a toolkit is easier than rolling your own.

Re:Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (1)

Frac (27516) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674392)

Frankly, that's a completely bogus argument. Early X Windows applications had wildly inconsistent interfaces. Then, gradually, over time, people learned this was a bad idea, and people started developing user interface standards. Furthermore, as GUIs got more complex and GUI toolkits got better, the overhead of rolling your own became too much for most projects, so they tended to use toolkits.

I'm not sure how your statement disagrees with mine. The point of my post is that the mishmash of bad UI will eventually slow down the adoption rate (as we can see here), and the rate won't pick up until the UI is more consistent.

On an offtopic note, what's with all this stigma surrounded AJAX the acronym? Certainly, Javascript isn't new, DHTML isn't new, xmlhttprequest isn't new, but this growing category of dynamic web applications that makes use of all these technologies are certainly unique enough to deserve their own term.

Re:Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674395)

Check out Convea, it provides the platform, every application shares the same consistent IE.

Crying shame they get ignored so much.

http://www.convea.com/ [convea.com]

Re:Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674408)

My recent pet peeve is tiny little icons, just for the sake of tiny little icons.

Of course, the fastest growing segment of connected platforms is the mobile phone/networked PDA type devices. They have pretty limited screen estate and low resolution. 8x8 icons make eminent sense for platforms like that.

What you're annoyed over aren't "tiny little icons", but an UI that doesn't scale to your device, either automatically (difficult to detect across devices) or manually, with a nice "make it bigger" button.

And you're absolutely right about developers tending to throw in wayyy too many icons into a UI. Windows apps are especially afflicted with it for some reason, but all platforms I've seen are guity of it to some extent. Icons only make sense if they are few enough, and visually distinct enough, that you can readily recognize them literally at a glance. Far better to have just the five-six most used operations as icons (make it modal if you will), and let the rest lie in the menus.

Re:Consistent and Intuitive UI will be important (1)

Frac (27516) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674427)

Of course, the fastest growing segment of connected platforms is the mobile phone/networked PDA type devices. They have pretty limited screen estate and low resolution. 8x8 icons make eminent sense for platforms like that.

I agree. For such applications, small icons make sense.

What you're annoyed over aren't "tiny little icons", but an UI that doesn't scale to your device, either automatically (difficult to detect across devices) or manually, with a nice "make it bigger" button.

Well, I'm only annoyed at the tiny little icons, just for the sake of tiny little icons. I agree there are applications or interfaces constraining the actions to small icons, but when the average desktop resolution is over 1024x768, there's no excuse to use 8x8 icons. (and indeed, your post makes the same point)

Some good ideas.. (4, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674289)

Things where one user needs to access an application from many locations (email for example), or where a group of distributed users need have instant access to shared information (calendar, notes) .. great idea to have a remotely hosted application or data store.

But for word processing? Spreadsheets? That seems like a waste of bandwidth, and an unnecessary security risk. I've been working remotely for the last 2 years (300 miles from the company office). I've never encountered a situation where a remote service text editor would be preferable to a local app. Given my flaky internet connection that would really be a very bad thing. Whatsmore .. I'm not sure of course, but I rather doubt the capability of a javascript based spreadsheet. It might be ok for holding a small set of data and a handful of equations, but I wouldn't much like to view the last 10 years of accounts of a medium sized company with one. It'd be considerably slower than a properly compiled and optimized application.

Oh my God! They killed KIKO! (1)

hta (7593) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674307)

Guess we've managed to test the scalability of the implementations already.... cute names, though!

jotlive.com (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674328)

Check out jotlive.com

This is an awesome collaboration tool. If anyone has some insights on how this works (technically), I'd appreciate it.

I was under the impression that you can only poll from client to server, not the reverse, yet this application shows instant change (so no 10 sec continuous polling)

TrolL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674335)

lizard - In other been sittIng here you have a play Under the GPL. clean for the next first organization Balance is struck,

Why just remotely? (1)

Freebasen (742014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674339)

You know, this could actually go somewhere in certain corporate environments. The key here is application support internally. Run a local server with all the apps. It would be great if all you had to do to get a new workstation up is put the favorites in a login script. Then the user has all of his/her apps based upon department needs. No fuss, no issues. Need to swap workstations? No problem, the apps are always there. I know a lot of organizations that have users work off of network drives anyways, so when the network is down, they still didn't get any work done. Now about MS word compatibility...

please let it die (3, Insightful)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674350)

Having only just managed to ween my co-workers off a ton of needless javascript in their applications 'improvements' in web technologies such as AJAX are a concern to me. Having read all about 'Web 2.0' technologies, I'm left to wonder where the business case for all this while STILL maintaining standards in accessibility comes from?

Please note: accessibility means equal access for ALL, it is not a term to differentiate disabled internet users from their able-bodied peers.

So now we have we have to use libraries that work for IE and every other browser separately, we then have rewrite it all for people using accessibility aids that often use scraping techniques to get content from the page and wont update unless the page refreshes, so we have to write a legacy version anyway (of course, you can make the call that the chance of getting sued is low enough not to bother).

Before people say we have to write a ton of code to account for different browsers and accessibility combinations, I work supplying web apps to public sector education bodies and none of my applications require wild cul-de-sacs of code for special scenarios.

We have only just started mastering equal access for all in web applications as it is, the last thing we need is a new generation of web developers who think that "omg cool functionality kthx" > accessibility

Re:please let it die (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674409)

So now we have we have to use libraries that work for IE and every other browser separately

No, the difference between the XMLHttpRequest object in Internet Explorer and the XMLHttpRequest object in all the other browsers is merely the way in which you instantiate it - which you can emulate in Internet Explorer with only a couple of lines of Javascript. Furthermore, Internet Explorer 7 will be like all the other browsers too.

we then have rewrite it all for people using accessibility aids

You don't have to do that if you write things properly from the beginning. You write an accessible web application, and then you improve it with Javascript. Obviously if you start writing Javascript first and then try to retrofit accessibility you're going to run into problems. But if you start with a solid foundation, you don't have to rewrite or maintain separate legacy versions.

the last thing we need is a new generation of web developers who think that "omg cool functionality kthx" > accessibility

No, but at the opposite end of the spectrum, we don't want a new generation of web developers thinking that cool functionality is incompatible with accessibility, which is what you seem to think.

Given the choice, a lot of developers will choose the cool functionality over accessibility. But in reality, they don't have to choose. If they start reading comments like yours, they'll think they do need to choose, and leave accessibility by the wayside. Better to acknowledge that you can have both without making them choose.

Re:please let it die (1)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674418)

No, I know that once business is applied to IT something always suffers, and judging by 90% of web systems I inspect or see, it is the accessibility.

Re:please let it die (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674421)

Yes, well that's irrespective of AJAX, isn't it? The business influence is going to be there regardless of whether or not you use AJAX.

Ditch The Document Browser! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674353)

Why not ditch the document browser and start over with completly new system for internet apps?

http://www.newio.org/ [newio.org]

Lame (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674359)

Great. What a wonderful way to write applications that DONT ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING.

Call me when you get PhotoShop, Doom, Oracle9 and Soundtrack running at a decent speed in a web browser.

For now, I'll stick to C code thanks.

Re:Lame (1, Interesting)

Betcour (50623) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674383)

With the new "canvas" available in upcoming Firefox, it should be possible to write pretty much any application with just Javascript (and lots of sweat !)

Re:Lame (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13674456)

I seriously doubt that. Let me know when they get the PS1 versions of Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 9 running at decent speed at 1024x768 using Firefox's canvas feature. It would probably require several thousand GHz just for the CPU core, much less the video, sound, and cdrom emulation.

s5 (1)

RPoet (20693) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674382)

I used s5 for my Masters thesis presentation. It worked great, but I don't know if I would call it "AJAX". It's just combines XHTML and CSS, very well.

Arrgh! AJAX everywhere! (1)

porneL (674499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674411)

It's enough to make JS do more than just rollovers and people call it AJAX. I hate that. Not everything that has draggable pseudowindows is "AJAX application". DHTML used to be name for those, but it's not cool anymore... heh

And so we return to where we started (2, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674385)

Back when I started computers, we had dumb terminals with applications running on mainframes. I had no ability to write my own code; I had no right to execute CPU cycles for anything other than work. And nor could I, as CPU cycles were audited and 'billed' against each department.

And so we will return. The server based module of applictaion licencing will suit the likes of Microsoft enormously. They want a constant revenue stream, not just intermittent ( but huge ) income on new product releases.

More insidiously though, this move will start to erode our usgae 'rights' again . Little by little we will be discouraged from installing applications on our PC's.

There are good aspects to server hosted applications and data storage, but also some very bad ones.

Complete Web Office Solution (1)

krahd (106540) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674417)

Well, it seems that the idea is not really new. This guys [nyandu.com] are already offering a web OS (or at least a desktop) and a bunch of web office applications. All AJAX based.

And (I happen to know these guys), they are turning open source. The official announcement should be next week, methinks...

lack of development tools (2, Interesting)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674423)

The biggest disadvantage of ajax that I can see, is that it's written in javascript and there is no debugger available for the various web browsers (except Mozilla).
Developing a large application without a debugger is not fun.
Why not use flash? It seems to do everything that ajax can do, but it has a IDE and debugger available and there is the added advantage that it's cross platform (ajax requires that you write a seperate version for IE and Mozilla).

AJAX, it's magic! (4, Insightful)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674444)

Everyone seems to be running around raving about AJAX applications. Why do you all think AJAX is so good? Really? It's cool if you need to update a webpage without reloading (and particularly for server-push), but why do I want server-push functionality in a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, presentation-building software or note-taking software (note, I've taken e-mail client out of that list, as server push is actually useful there)?

Sure, if these were tools to allow multiple people to work on the same document simultaneously, but these all seem to share data only after it's been saved back to the server. As someone else pointed out, the presentation application doesn't even use AJAX!

Would people please stop using AJAX to mean "Really cool looking Javascript application"? If Javascript applications excite you, fine, you're welcome to them, but please get the terms right...

My prediction ... (3, Interesting)

TarrySingh (916400) | more than 8 years ago | (#13674449)

that Google will come out with it's Online GoogleOffice Suite here [blogspot.com] and eventually a Web Deployable OS with unstructured XML DB will soon be reality. Like I say, People will make lot's of Software, it's the impeccable timing of Google, that will make their products shine, be it Office products or others.
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