AJAX Progress and Challenges

A Panel Discussion

Ben Galbraith, Bruce Grant, Scott C. Lemon

The AJAX approach to dynamic web programming has caught on all over the internet, heightening our expectations for a new generation of rich, interactive web applications. In this conversation, Phil Windley sits down with Ben Galbraith, Bruce Grant and Scott Lemon, three experienced AJAX developers and evangelists, to talk about progress and challenges in the AJAX world.

The term AJAX (asynchronous javascript and XML) encompasses a set of programming techniques for rendering and updating webpages, supported by a group of technologies often (but not exclusively) tied together in the browser with javascript. Once loaded, the AJAX engine remains active, updating dynamically as the user interacts with portions of the page. Phil and his guests discuss AJAX's emergence from advances in browser technology, use of the DOM, XML/XSLT and asynchronous data retrieval via XMLHttpRequest, along with improved interoperability standards, and various libraries and toolkits which together have enabled the browser to become a powerful platform for application development.

Looking to the future, Galbraith, Grant and Lemon see AJAX as rife with possibilities for new ways to manipulate and store data on the client side for better UI experiences on the desktop and in mobile applications. Some of the challenges include the need for speed, better drawing engines, and better debugging and diagnostic tools for programmers. Given the energy of the AJAX community, we can expect very interesting times ahead as AJAX competes with rich client approaches to provide users with instantaneous feedback, powerful interfaces, and cool visual effects.


Ben Galbraith is a frequent technical speaker, occasional consultant, and author of several Java-related books. He is a co-founder of Ajaxian.com, was recently Chief Technical Officer for Amirsys, and is presently a consultant specializing in enterprise architecture and Swing/Ajax development. Ben wrote his first computer program when he was six years old, started his first business at ten, and entered the IT workforce just after turning twelve. For the past few years, he's been professionally coding in Java. Ben presides over the Utah Java User's Group, is active in the Java Community Process, and tinkers on various open-source projects from time to time. He delivered over eighty technical presentations in 2004 at venues including JavaOne, O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON), and the No Fluff Just Stuff Java Symposiums.

Bruce Grant Bruce has over a decade of experience in software engineering development and management. Bruce is currently working for The SCO Group as a Senior Director doing application research and development for next generation mobile devices. Prior to SCO, Bruce was a founding member and CTO of Vultus Inc., where starting in the late 90s he pioneered the development of one of the first AJAX frameworks named WebFace. WebFace applications execute within a web browser using AJAX providing a rich, desktop-client experience. He has been a force for the adoption of open solutions and standards including XML, SOAP and web services. Bruce remains a strong advocate of agile software development methodologies, implementing them successfully since 2000.


Scott Lemon is technical evangelist and strategist at Agilix Labs. Scott has been working in computer hardware and software for decades. He got involved in AJAX - before it was called AJAX - when he joined a start-up called Vultus, Inc. Scott is now involved in a number of start-ups working on Web 2.0 projects, wireless, and collaboration.


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