OpenAJAX forges ahead

Renaming, definition agreed upon; Zimbra issues challenge

Members of the OpenAjax initiative, formed in February to promote the AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Web scripting technique, have generally agreed on a definition of AJAX that concurs with Wikipedia's description.

Representatives of 24 of the group's 31 members met in San Francisco last week formulate a to-do list and, while they were at it, to officially rename the organization the OpenAjax Alliance, according to participant IBM.

Attendees established goals to define what AJAX means, identify and consolidate best practices, and to reach a consensus on programming models around a reference implementation intended to help with tools interoperability.

The AJAX definition as written in Wikipedia states that AJAX is a Web development technique for building interactive Web applications, with the intent of making Web pages more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server. With this technique, the entire Web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user makes a change.

The AJAX technique consists of XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets for marking and styling information, and a DOM (Document Object Model) accessed with a client-side scripting language, particularly JavaScript or JScript.

Also featured is an XMLHttpRequest object to exchange data asynchronously with the Web server. In some frameworks and situations, an IFrame object is used instead of XMLHttprequest to exchange data.

XML is sometimes as used as the format for data transfer between the server and client, although formats such as preformatted HTML, plain text, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and EBML (Extensible Binary Meta Language) also will work.

Scott Dietzen, president and CTO of Zimbra, in his blog last week emphasized a need to clearly define AJAX and clarify the mission of OpenAjax.

"Our take is that OpenAjax exists to best leverage the investment protection and community innovation inherent in the open source model to accelerate AJAX adoption," and ensure that AJAX remains multi-client, multi-browser, multi-server, and independent of any specific language or container on the server, Dietzen said.

"I believe this mission can be achieved (in fact, is most likely to be achieved) without we vendors starting a full-on standards body. Rather my belief is that OpenAjax's best bet is to continue to work through existing Web standardization efforts (W3C, ECMA, etc.) and, more importantly, existing open source collaborations (Mozilla, Eclipse, Apache, Dojo, etc.)," Dietzen wrote.

He also stressed need to endorse and improve existing AJAX design patterns and platform technologies and improve the browser.

OpenAJAX earlier this month announced 13 new participants.

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