When the big tech brands like Amazon start using Ajax to improve their user interface you know the tipping point has been reached. So how long will it be before the great and good embrace Fjax, aka ‘Ajax 2.0’?
You probably know about Ajax. It allows you to load content on webpages without the need to refresh the browser window.
My favourite website over the past year or two is undoubtedly flickr, which has a flawless Ajax user interface and works like a desktop application. It is very smooth, very fast, and highly intuitive.
But with Ajax, the devil is in the detail, or at least in all those different browsers you ‘need’ to be able to support. Cross-browser compatibility is often cited as the biggest single headache for programmers working with Ajax.
Making Ajax interfaces work across a range of browsers (and browser versions) can be tricky, but the main issue here is the heaviness of the code, which becomes increasingly clunky as you increase browser support. More code tends to lead to less speed.
But now there’s something called Fjax, and it merits investigation if you’re thinking about working with Ajax.
Fjax is still in development and the F, since you must be wondering, stands for Flash. That’s normally enough to cause panic among user-centric internet teams, but fear not, for the Flash element is innovative and non-intrusive. I'm serious!
So what is Fjax? The company explains:
Fjax is an open, lightweight, cross-browser methodology for Ajax-style web 2.0 development.
Fjax is a technique focused on drastically streamlining the XML handling layer of web 2.0 applications. Picture Ajax's XML parsing and handling with less than 65 lines of code! It's not a replacement for toolsets that provide presentation-layer visual gizmos.
Think of it as a new engine to put under the hood of all the great widgets that are already out there.
Ye Gods! The Flash part of Fjax is used for the back-end part to the application, rather than the front-end (the presentation layer), which marks a change from the often abhorrent use of Flash for front-end catastrophes.
Instead, Flash is used for XML parsing and (x)HTML content delivery, speeding up the delivery of content by reducing something like 90% of the code normally needed to support multiple browsers.
And the founders, Steve and Jay McDonald, claim to have condensed all this into less than 65 lines of code.
I have a pretty low opinion of Flash, whether that’s for websites or interruptive online advertising, but Fjax might make me think again.
Related reading: Webmonkey's Q&A with the Fjax founders