Why AJAX is ruining the web


Okay, so AJAX is not really ruining the web. In fact, it is a great technology, when correctly used, that makes user experience much better. But AJAX, in combination with other technologies, are causing issues. My latest issue comes from trying to use an AJAX extender with MapQuest tiled maps. Both use JavaScript, so the site is blowing up in Internet Explorer. Just a few minutes ago, I confirmed it was exclusively an Internet Explorer.

Now, this is not AJAX’s fault. It is also not MapQuest’s fault. But, it is certainly a problem that manifests itself when technology outpaces the tools. And I am not the first person to talk about this. Kathleen Dollard wrote about it in May of last year, in an article called Pace of Change Leaves No One Competent. Rocky Lhotka alludes to it here.

Here is what is happening in my situation. I have two technologies that are both using client side JavaScript. I need one of the technologies. I would really like the other, but there is no way I can get them to play nice together. And, the debugging help in Internet Explorer is so far behind the curve that I am going to have to scrap the AJAX bits to get this site out. And, since there are other bits that use client side scripting, I am not sure that is all I will have to cut. I will solve my problem by some time tomorrow.

This is not a problem unique to client side scripting, however. Microsoft has released a plethora of new technology in the last year or so, including WCF, WF, and WPF (including Silverlight, or WPF in the browser). Currently, the tools available for some of these technologies are rudimentary, at best. In the batters box, we see another large set of technologies, including ADO.NET Entities, ASP.NET AJAX extensions and the MVC Framework. There is some tool support for the first two, but the third will likely be released with very little tool support.

Please note that I am not against new technology. I personally think Silverlight 2.0 is great and welcome the .NET Framework installed in every browser. I love the Deep Zoom technology, as well; being able to set up very large images without inconveniencing the user is a great idea. The same is true with many other new technologies being shoved out the door. I am saying that we should be very careful to have the technology outpace the tools.

Microsoft may be thinking that some of the technologies will end up failing and do not want to spend time on tools for failed technologies. After all, they have some history in this area with Microsoft Agent. But, the quickest way to kill a technology is to release it with zero support.

It is prime time for the competition to examine the direction Microsoft is heading and adjust their plans to offer competition with tool support. It will not necessary eclipse the Microsoft technology, but it will force Microsoft to spend a bit more time on decent tools to support their new technology, sooner rather than later.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

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