AJAX - Not a Cleaning Agent

October 6th, 2006 | Categories: AJAX, trends

Time for a grammar lesson. In the new web, techies are very familiar with the term ‘AJAX’. It is synonymous with web 2.0. However, non-techies may need a short lesson on the topic.

What AJAX isn’t:

  • A Greek heroAJAX logo
  • An automobile
  • A small city in Ontario, Canada
  • A household cleaner
  • A Dutch football club

What AJAX is:

An abbreviated form of the term ‘Asynchronous JAvaScript and XML’. Wikipedia defines AJAX as:

“a web development technique for creating interactive web applications. The intent is to make web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user makes a change. This is meant to increase the web page’s interactivity, speed, and usability.”

Simply put, you can drag, click, and perform actions on a page without having to refresh it.

Major PROs of AJAX

  1. Bandwidth utilization
  2. Interactivity

Major CONs of AJAX

  1. Usability
  2. Response-time concerns

 The most widely noted example of an AJAX-based web application is Google Maps. Using this application, you can bring up a particular map, then proceed to drag and zoom without having to refresh the page. Another example is Snipshot, an online photo editing tool. Without having to refresh the page, you can rotate, crop, and adjust colour settings of a particular photo.

One big drawback of AJAX is lack of functionality for advertisers. Because the page does not reload and the user may spend several minutes on that page, a website’s overall number of page views will decrease dramatically with the installation of AJAX. This problem will need to be addressed in the near future, otherwise potential suitors will shy away from its functionality. 

The term itself was coined back in February 2005 by Jesse James Garrett, information architect and founder of Adaptive Path. It appeared in his article AJAX: A New Approach to Web Applications.

If you can successfully add AJAX to your business plan, you will have better chance of roping in VC money. Couple that with tagging and RSS, and it’s a sure thing. God bless buzzwords.


  1. James Says:

    Great read. What exactly do you mean by ‘usability’ being a major con? If anything I thought it would make websites more usable?

  2. Aidan Says:

    Hey James,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    There are some usability issues that stem from historical user behavioural patterns such as the use of the “Back’ button or the ability to bookmark a particular page. For more information, I strongly suggest you visit the Wikipedia page for AJAX at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_%28programming%29. I think this will clarify some of your concerns.


  3. Is AJAX all It is Hyped to be? Says:

    […] The coming of the new-web brought with it a bucket of buzz words and terms. Among them: podcast, RSS, wikis, VOIP, blog, widgets, and of course, AJAX. Some are relevant, while others are simply fads with no long-term potential. AJAX, for one, has been a term buzzing around the development community. The combination of asynchronous JavaScript and XML forms a powerful, interactive experience by increasing usability and saving time. […]

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