For the Techies

I’ve been using Gmail for a while now and I’m convinced it is by far the best online email service out there. Besides having superior usability, search features and storage space, there’s something else about it that really stuck out from the very first day: it behaves differently than most other websites. The way it works reminded me more of a desktop application – or a Flash website – than the websites I was used to.

It’s a lot more interactive than most websites, and its a lot faster too. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can experience the same sort of thing on Google Maps. There’s a lot more stuff to click on, things move around, you’ve got controls that are non-standard for websites (like the zoom slider, for example). As a web developer, I often wondered just how Gmail did it.

Today I found out. It’s technology called Ajax, which is short for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. This relatively new idea, based on a combination of older technologies which have been in use for a long time, is enabling the creation of websites with a lot more interactivity and much better interfaces. I’m not going to get into the specifics of how it works, since you can read all about it yourself, but make no mistake: this is the web development technology of the future.

But where does this leave Flash? Flash is designed to accomplish pretty much the same thing as Ajax, namely websites that are more interactive, react quicker and have more interesting interfaces. Ajax does appear to have some initial advantages: it loads faster than Flash, it still displays information in standard HTML which allows search engines to easily index the content, and it doesn’t require downloading the Flash plugin (the only “extra” technology required is for Javascript to be enabled). Flash still appears to be better for really graphical, flashy websites, as the name indicates. But for someone like myself who values content over looks, and for the many businesses that do too, I wonder which technology will be the most appealing.

My apologies to my non-technical readers, which is probably most of you, for bombarding you with this sudden onslaught of geek-talk. You might have no idea what I’m talking about, but stay tuned: I have an idea for a web application that will demonstrate this technology and will probably be helpful to you too.

12 Responses to “For the Techies”
  1. luc:

    YES GUY – ajax is the shit ,,, someone was telling me about it a while ago – He was a loyal flash designer unwilling to cross over. anyways, I am all for it ,, sick of flash , CSS rocks !

  2. Adria:

    The only prob with gmail – or perhaps the way I use it – is that there appears to be no way to run a mailing list. This was a thorn in my side on my recent Euro-gallavanting, where it was timely (thus costly) to check off the names worthy of my prose.