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Asynchronous Javascript Technology And Xml (ajax)
(Greg Murray)

Anyone who has used Flickr, GMail, Google Suggest, or Google Maps will realize that a new breed of dynamic web applications is emerging. These applications look and act very similar to traditional desktop applications without relying on plug-ins or browser-specific features. Web applications have traditionally been a set of HTML pages that must be reloaded to change any portion of the content. Technologies such as JavaScript programming language and cascading style sheets (CSS) have matured to the point where they can be used effectively to create very dynamic web applications that will work on all of the major browsers. This article will detail several techniques that you can use today to enable your web applications to be more rich and interactive like desktop applications. Using JavaScript technology, an HTML page can asynchronously make calls to the server from which it was loaded and fetch XML documents. The XML documents may then be used by the JavaScript technology to update or modify the Document Object Model (DOM) of the HTML page. The term Asynchronous JavaScript Technology and XML (AJAX) has emerged recently to describe this interaction model. AJAX is not new. These techniques have been available to developers targeting Internet Explorer on the Windows platform for many years. Until recently, the technology was known as web remoting or remote scripting. Web developers have also used a combination of plug-ins, Java applets, and hidden frames to emulate this interaction model for some time. What has changed recently is that the inclusion of support for the XMLHttpRequest object has became ubiquitous in the mainstream browsers across all platforms. The real magic is the result of the JavaScript technology's XMLHttpRequest object. Although this object is not specified in the formal JavaScript technology specification, all of today's mainstream browsers support it. The subtle differences with the JavaScript technology and CSS support among current generation browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari are manageable. If you are required to support older browsers, AJAX may not be the answer for you.

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