Is AJAX On The Way Out?

May 9th, 2008 | Categories: AJAX, design, marketing, off topic, social media, trends, usability, web issues

The frenzy days of web 2.0 are over. Thank God. With it, many of the buzz words parted, although some continue to linger. Among the lingering stragglers, “AJAX” continues to nab the spotlight from time to time. Its slickness and interactivity have been applauded by many, while others believe this technology is on the way out.

Let’s face it — usability trumps cool technology. In the end, the goal of any service is to provide value to the end user. It doesn’t matter how this is accomplished as long as the process is as streamlined and efficient as possible. The user doesn’t care about sophisticated interface features. Locating the desired information is the primary focus. Usability revolves around this principle.

In some instances, a case can be made for AJAX. Often, it can simplify an experience or minimize a complicated process. Such instances prove out the merit of AJAX and provide hope for long-term prosperity.

My quarrel lies in the fact that many web designers and developers choose to abuse overuse this technology to the point of stupidity. It is meant to simplify the experience, not complicate it. Using AJAX for the sake of using AJAX isn’t valid reasoning. Some sites incorporate it in an elegant, intuitive way, while others saturate the experience with an absurd amount of on-page activity. A threshold needs to be established based on user intentions.

Let me re-iterate that I am not against the use of AJAX — I simply believe it needs to be used more selectively. Some sites are choosing to go overboard by bombarding users with a unjustifiable array of AJAX’ed interface features. This is unacceptable and the culprits will ultimately be punished by the users. For those who use AJAX in a more subtle, graceful manner, I commend you and encourage you to stay the course.

More for information on AJAX, visit these other MappingTheWeb posts:


  1. Rob Says:

    Bad title. AJAX is not on its way out and your complaint is about its overuse. I agree with the overuse and it just being another available method when necessary but not that it’s going away; nor should it.

  2. Justin D-Z Says:

    Agreed. Linkbait title. AJAX isn’t on the way out because there’s not a replacement technique which meets the same goals and improves on the technique. In fact, you don’t even make the case that AJAX abuse (what you’re really talking about) is on the way out.

  3. Tom Says:

    Websites should always work without ajax (or Javascript at all for that matter), but if you can improve a user experience with it then it’s worthwhile, as long as it falls back gracefully when javascript is disabled.

    The biggest problem is delivering it in a manageable way that doesn’t end up causing developers a huge headache.

    AJAX almost certainly isn’t on the way out, but I suspect it will evolve as browsers become more consistent and frameworks improve.

  4. JR Tashjian Says:

    I agree with Rob that AJAX is not on it’s way out. I am annoyed at the overuse of AJAX though. Sites that overuse AJAX, hurt their sites usability. I believe AJAX should be used minimally. Simple things like deleting items, updating content, sorting a list of items, or even this example: posting this comment. AJAX doesn’t need to be used for loading whole new pages on a site.

  5. Aaron Says:

    AJAX has its uses. I’m a developer of one of the most popular AJAX plugins for WordPress. I have always done my best to ensure that features aren’t being added just for the sake of adding AJAX, and I often tell people “no” when they ask for features that just aren’t useful or are part of the “bad” AJAX.

    The problem is, is that too many people see AJAX as a way of showing that they “get it,” so just like when xhtml first came out, it is being shoved into places that are not useful and it wasn’t intended to be. It seems to me that the use of AJAX for frivolous uses is peaking, and it is being used a bit more responsibly by professionals.

    There are good reasons to entirely AJAX a website, but most do it because it is cool not because there is a good reason.

  6. Aidan Says:

    Rob, Justin -

    Thanks for the feedback. The article wasn’t meant to suggest that everyone stop using AJAX technology. Rather, it was meant to spur discussion on whether it will recede from mainstream web design and development.

    I am not a programmer and do not claim to have in-depth knowledge into the inner-workings of the technology. I just know that it is being abused on a widespread basis — this hurts the user in the end.


  7. Dietrich Says:


    If Ajax does shuffle of this web coil, it won’t be because of overuse. The horse is out of the barn when it comes to rich client interaction, and applications and sites that stick to the dowdy sites with 20 postbacks will get rolled under by their Ajax-enabled competition.

    If Ajax does go away, it will be because of competitors like Flash/Flex/Air and Silverlight. The choice used to be between forms-based web applications that were easy to develop and would run anywhere, and Flash apps that were hard(er) to develop and might not run everywhere. Now that rich Ajax applications share some of the same challenges, folks are looking at Flash applications (and Silverlight) in a whole new way.


  8. Jason Nark Says:

    I work for a company that just recently shipped a new appdev tool, where we added AJAX support. Basically the goal was/is too to let developers take advantage of the performance benefits that AJAX can bring, and to make sure the AJAX code is optimized, without forcing the developers to deal with the AJAX learning curve, or code-factoring issues. I can tell you that customers are absolutely wowed by the resulting AJAX-empowered apps from a purely tools-vendor perspective. AJAX is definitely hot. The most interesting thing is not one of our customers were asking for AJAX before we put it in. We did not see any market demand. We only put it in at the urging of a handful of internal people. But the results has been, once customers see it, they’re completely turned on by it. Now we have the reverse problem, where we’re scrambling to build more AJAX capabilities into the product because what we have in there now is really just a start. The company’s chairman has said that the real issues are not with AJAX, but with the fact that it’s a new technology and developers haven’t locked down their best practices for designing and developing with it. I think I agree. If it’s okay with you, I could post a link to some of the chairman’s commentary on this, but I don’t want to do that without your permission.

  9. Aidan Says:


    Feel free to post the link. After all, this post was meant to spark discussion :)


  10. terron Says:

    I do think AJAX is going out real quick. I mean if programmers have to put in a bunch of hacks just to enable simple features like tabs and drag & drop, then there’s sth wrong here. And it’s not just about sexy GUI. Neither HTML nor Javascript was designed to support future web apps that should make good use of client-side computing power. The best example I can think of is Google Docs VS Adobe’s Buzzword. Google programmers are known to be rocket scientists yet Docs gets pwned by a beta version of Buzzword simply b/c the latter is built on top of an advanced RIA platform (FLEX/FLASH) while the former is on plain-old-AJAX. Coding in FLEX/FLASH is also much faster and more maintainable than Ajax. W/ SilverLight and JavaFX coming, it’s not about if AJAX is out but which of the three people switch to.

  11. Mike Rundle Says:

    I’d like to say that “people saying AJAX when they really mean JS visual effects” is on the way out, but sadly, it’s not. AJAX in the web development world has been used for a few years so it’s “new” to us, but in larger and slower companies, they’re just catching onto the idea and they don’t really know what it is. If you make a DIV visible and invisible, that’s “AJAX” to them. If something fades then fades out, that is also AJAX. I see this constantly, and it’s not really going to get better because actually explaining AJAX to someone is slightly more technical than most non-technical people can handle. Anything that’s sexy on a web page is now AJAX and although it’s infuriating, it’s only just started, so I can’t see it on the way out.

  12. Mike Rundle Says:

    @terron: What hacks are needed for tabs and drag-and-drop? I hate the weight of libraries so I code all my visual effects by hand, and I don’t have to hack a thing, I just write the code. Writing drag-and-drop by hand isn’t that complicated, just a lot of “figuring out where the mouse is” and X,Y manipulation of elements on the page. No hacks needed and it works in IE6 on up. Switching between tabs shouldn’t be done in AJAX anyway since the information in the other tabs can be pulled in onload and then you’re just toggling display block/none. If you’re using AJAX for simple tabbing then you’re not using AJAX properly, which is what some other commenters have brought up ahead of me.

  13. Jason Nark Says:

    @Aidan. . . Thanks. Here’s a link to the post I was referring to:

    He’s written some other stuff on AJAX, which you can call up by clicking on the AJAX tag.

  14. Brad Says:

    I agree completely with the use of ajax for improved usability. But a lot of the sites I find with ajax implemented on them are unnecessary and unintuitive.

  15. Pathfinder Development » Ajax on Way Out? Slide Down Hype Curve Exaggerated Says:

    […] Henry over at MappingTheWeb asks whether Ajax is on the way out. Aside from observing that the “frenzy ways of web 2.0 are over,” he opines that: My quarrel lies […]

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