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A Year 2000 Slashdot Post Predicts Ajax

As I was surfing the web today I ran across and interesting Slashdot post from the year 2000 that predicts the use of Ajax.

The article accurately predicts the use of toolkits the would receive data via XML on the client side using DHTML. The post even mentions the idea of MVC (model view controller) as it relates to what we now fondly call Ajax. Below is a list of the pros and cons as listed by the post.

The following isn't very well organized, written on the fly, but benefits of a DHTML approach include:
  • Natural
    client/server model enforced by browsers supports and encourages
    development of a well-separated layered model. Can be used to implement
    simple two-tier systems which talk directly to a database, or more
    sophisticated, flexible three+ tier systems with an object-based middle
    layer (developed in Java for portability.)
  • The latest HTML,
    stylesheet (CSS) and XML/XSL standards support clear separation between
    "document" structure, presentation, and content. Reuse in software
    development is all about separating out functionality as much as
    possible - a blob that does 10 different things can't be reused as well
    as a focused entity which does one thing. CSS stylesheets allow you to
    reuse presentation definitions in different contexts, XML allows you to
    reuse data and queries, XSL (which applies a template to XML data)
    allows you to reuse "structure", i.e. implement the same layout for
    data in different contexts.
  • Although HTML is often thought of
    as inferior to traditional programmed GUI solutions, when it comes to
    DHTML and the associated technologies, this is a misperception. In some
    respects, such as the widgets mentioned above, it is lacking, but as
    mentioned, this can be addressed using judiciously applied Java
    objects. In other respects, such as its handling of multimedia content
    (images, sound, movies), its hypertext capabilities, and its
    free-format layout, it is far superior. Applications can be developed
    which allow a user to navigate freely between entities far more easily
    than they ever could with traditional GUI database applications.
  • Declarative
    rather than procedural model used by all these technologies (HTML, CSS,
    XML, XSL), lends itself to automation via toolkits.
  • Prediction
    about the future: this technology is moving fast, and is likely to
    catch and outstrip existing GUI application development models quite
    quickly, at least when it comes to traditional database-oriented
    applications. Developing a system like this now is a bet on the future
    direction of such systems, and will avoid you having to retool and
    relearn in a few years time when the limitations of your
    non-browser-based cross-platform application become problematic.
The problems I see with this approach at the moment are:
  • Do-everything
    toolkits for this kind of application are not yet available. Although
    there are toolkits which work for particular layers of such an
    application (especially a middle object-based layer), there's nothing I
    know of that's oriented towards creating cross-platform "rich GUI"
    systems in a browser. The user-interface aspects of web application
    development toolkits tend to be oriented towards the simple, "list
    products, order product" type of application required by
    business-to-consumer web sites. On the positive side, you can still use
    products for web page design and so on, you just have to live with
    working quite a bit in a non-visual code mode to add your custom
    widgets, Javascript, etc.
  • You'll be something of a pioneer
    developing an application like this now. All the old sayings like
    "pioneers are the ones with arrows in their backs" exist for good
    reasons. No one ever got fired for churning out another application
    with the same old reliable-but-limited existing technology.

Sometimes it is interesting to see how close or how far off ones vision of the future is.

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