AJAX, Javascript, DHTML, Web 2.0

The internet has come a long way in the last ten years. Its amazing to think that I used to dial into VAX machines at 110 baud (521x slower than a 56K modem!!) when I was 14 years old on my Atari 800XL (That was 21 years ago!). Fast forward to 2007 and the internet has changed all our lives. The power of web applications that we rely on every day is simply amazing. This in large part is due to the prevalence of AJAX applications and the ability for client side scripts to act like an application.

What do I mean by that? AJAX and other similiar technologies allow a website to send the server information and retrieve information from the server without reloading your website. Why is that so important you ask? Its everything. It allows developers to code websites that act just like desktop applications. Don’t you hate clicking through the endless process of signing up for your favorite site, or always having to hit submit to go to next page? 95% of sites that could benefit greatly from AJAX type applications aren’t implementing them or are barely scratching the surface. Thats whats so exciting. Cpanel (Our backend control panel) is still in the stone age as far as AJAX applications go. The file manager is a step in the right direction, but it is still very weak.

We have a new domain manager that is AJAX based that will be released in the coming months that is FANTASTIC! You can manage all your domains, edit name servers, change contacts, transfer domains and more all from a single page. This is how all websites that require maintenance should be written in the future. Gmail is another example of a good AJAX application. Gmail wouldn’t be possible with standard HTML yet Gmail still has a LONG way to go before it realizes its full potential. It is still clunky in many places and can be cumbersome and slow to use when the server isn’t responding fast enough. This brings up one major complaint I have with AJAX applications and that is speed.

AJAX is usually coupled with Javascript/DHTML code to make a website act like an application, but because the application usually relies on the server in real time the AJAX app can seem sluggish compared to a desktop application. This is 100% unacceptable if you expect an AJAX app to compete with desktop applications. Slick coding and an complete intolerance for this sluggishness can eliminate these speed issues but it is much harder to code and takes time to resolve. Most AJAX apps I have seen have this slow response time.
A good example of these slower response times can be illustrated with many of the email web clients that are out there. Roundcube, Zimbra, OpenXchange, and others fit this category. They are all excellent web clients, but they are still slow compared to Outlook, Mail (On my Mac), or other desktop apps. These companies will swear up and down that they are as fast as a desktop application, but it just isn’t so.

AJAX with Javascript is the way to go on the web, but until the speed issues are completely resolved (Which is both possible and probable) desktop applications don’t have anything to
worry about. Show me where I’m wrong?

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

11 Responses to “AJAX, Javascript, DHTML, Web 2.0”

  1. >> but until the speed issues are completely resolved
    >> (Which is both possible and probable)

    How do you propose to resolve the “slowness” issue? In most situations, the slowdown is caused by network delay, rather then poor server performance, etc.

    In the US/North America, the only way to make the network faster would be if the ISPs fix the many problems they have. I don’t think that is likely possible (without requiring the ISPs to drop a TON of money) and therefore is not probable.

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think causes the “slowness” problem and how do you think it can be resolved?

  2. Guy Dorey says:

    Matt – I host my multiple sites with Bluehost and one of the most important reasons I switched was that you offered cPanel. I used to be with another company who used vDeck, which pretended to be user friendly whilst not actually giving me the control I needed (especially in relation to sub- and addon domain control). I genuinely don’t care about AJAX – I mean, it’s fairly useful in its way and looks pretty, but I want a backend system which gives me control and doesn’t get hidden under a wash of fancy graphics and AJAX powered widgets. cPanel still provides that, though to be honest I preferred version 10. Please – make sure that any changes you make do not rob us of the control we have got used to, or I shall very rapidly move my sites elsewhere.

  3. Guy Dorey says:

    Sorry – disregard my last comment. I realise you were referring to the domain manager only, not the whole back-end system! I’ve been coding for 14 hours, I think I’m going mad. Sorry again and keep up the good work!

  4. KS Augustin says:

    Oh, that first paragraph brought back memories. I remember debugging COBOL code on a 300baud teletype machine…Ah, can’t buy those memories with a two by four with nails punched through one end… *snort*

  5. Daniel Chow says:

    Hi! Matt Heaton ! I am from China !

    I have a Big Problem ~~

    HOW CAN I GET A WebHosting FROM BlueHost?

    ~~

    A Simple Question??

  6. Michael says:

    I totally agree, AJAX is the way to go for websites. But it’s not for everything, including some things that are meant for desktop aplications.

    For example, the CPanel 11: It’s a very nice upgrade, and I’m glad BH is using it, but it’s almost a bit too flashy. There’s just something about certain AJAX applications that don’t have the same solid feel as a standard coded page. If developers take the care to combine the best of both worlds, and create a solid feeling application that works well, I’m sure it’ll become more and more popular.

    There’s certain stuff that I know I won’t begin to use AJAX sites for, such as Word Proccessing, Spreadsheets, and some Code Editing. The CPanel 11 Code editor is a nice improvement, and works pretty decent, but it doesn’t compare to my desktop app code editor.

    So I appreciate it where it would have been already existent, but don’t try to create everything for web.

  7. Matt,
    The one big advantage AJAX-y applications have over desktop applications is the “deskless” part of it. Your data and documents, anywhere, anytime, with a reasonable user experience in most cases.
    Look for improvements in the Javascript execution engines in the browsers in the near future, unleashing a whole new level in browser-based user experience.
    One day we will not need plugins *cough* flash *cough* silverlight *cough* to deliver highly interactive UIs (at least I hope).

  8. John says:

    Interesting post, Matt – thanks for all the good work of you & your team.

    Daniel, I am in HK – happy to answer any questions time permitting. If my site is lised with thie post you can track me down, or google irm strategies hong kong ;-)

    CHeers-
    John

  9. So many of the web-based options you mention in your post are slower than desktop applications regardless of their claims. I always prefer to have the software (and code) on my own hard drive

  10. I agree, desktop based software is so much faster and much more practical. As long as you have a fail safe in case your comp craps out.

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