Saturday, March 28, 2009

AJAX - Is it really worth it?

With the onset of interactive web pages that update dynamically the moment you move your mouse over a control, development of an AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML) based web site adds to the complexity.

For one, they mess up with your browser history and limit your ability to bookmark a particular page as almost all contents are loaded "in-page". The other disadvantage I see is the in-ability of custom scripts to access the site and extract information.

For example, I can write a perl script that can access the Indian Railways page and query the arrival of a particular train. If the site used AJAX, it's going to be more difficult. Cellphones that bundle with micro-browsers either lack javascripting or access is usually blocked by service providers leaving you grapping with an empty framework with no actual data in it.

Development wise, you introduce a sense of uncertainty into your web-page where when your page looks like it has completed loading, more data is still being AJAX'ed. This may lead to difficulties in maintainability.

Though there are a lot of benefits of using AJAX, the main being better user experience, for scripters, this is a blocker.

  1. A parallel web-service based interface would help those who are armed with Perl or Python to extract useful information at a jiffy
  2. A simplified web alternative will cater to the needs of the cellphone user or the average scripter.
Amazon, Google and a few other providers focus and provide open Web Services and / or a simplified interface, but this is something lacking from mosr of the other providers... With the popularity of consolidation sites ( anyone?), hopefully this will change.

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