"Many people are interested in Ajax after having seen some of the amazing mashups like Google Maps. A lot of our enterprise developers have sat up and are taking notes," said Brian Finnerty, director of marketing for InnerWorkings, a Windows programming consultancy.
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The user experience generated by Ajax is more fluid, as it allows applications to integrate multiple Web services into a single interface. In addition, it can provide faster response times, as less information needs to be interchanged between the browser and the server.
In the Microsoft programming community, ASP.NET AJAX is gaining momentum as a way of improving the user interface while leveraging the existing base of ASP programming experience. However, some limitations do remain.
For basic applications, the ASP.NET AJAX programming model itself is not significantly different than what programmers are used to with ASP.NET. "The ASP.NET AJAX model, built on the existing ASP.NET model, is not a case of throwing out everything you know and starting over," said Jeff Prosise, co-founder of Wintellect, a .NET consultancy. "It has some new controls, but the model is consistent with the ASP.NET controls."
"Minimizing what you send to the server is one small part of it. The untold story is that it is not only a server framework -- it is a client framework as well," Prosise said.
ASP.NET AJAX also eases some of the browser pain that comes with Ajax, as each of the major browsers -- IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari -- treats Ajax a little differently. (Additional information on cross-browser compatibility in Ajax is available in Tutorial: Cross-browser Ajax by Ross Shannon.)
"If you are hand-coding Java, it is normally difficult to make it work on a lot of different browsers. You needed to write one set of code for Internet Explorer, and another set of code for Safari on the Mac," Prosise noted. "In ASP.NET Ajax, you just need to write the framework of abstraction to the model, and then it works for Safari or IE under the hood. [Y]ou are not having to write six different sets of Java code for six different browsers."
Photo sharing applicationPhanfare.com has been using ASP.NET AJAX to create a web-based version of its photo sharing service.
Michael Cichowski, software engineer at Phanfare, said the company looked at using Ruby on Rails, Linux, and MySQL for the site but decided that ASP.NET AJAX made the most sense, because it was tightly coupled to .NET. In addition, Cichowski said the company liked the way ASP.NET AJAX handled Web service calls and the ease of use when plugging an existing ASP.NET framework into Ajax.
One limitation to the Ajax interface, though, has been the limited access to native Windows resources. While this reduces the amount of damage that rogue Ajax code could do on the client, it also limits a programmer's options in certain areas.
"The one thing we wanted to do, but have not figured out how with ASP.NET AJAX, has been to implement a drag-and-drop file uploader from the local computer," Cichowski noted, adding that Web application security presented a challenge in this case as well. "You need some kind of ActiveX control or a Firefox plug-in, which is a huge hurdle to overcome. We went down the Java applet path, but that defeats the whole purpose of a lightweight application."
In order to overcome this limitation, Phanfare has been using Adobe's Flash, which has a multifile uploader for this purpose, Cichowski said.