The AJAX World Belongs to Google

Google isn't just a search engine; it's the defining force in the hottest programming trend today.

Reporter's Notebook: AJAX (define) as an industry term has only existed for two years, though the underlying technologies have been around a lot longer.

Make no mistake about it: Google brought the term and approach that is AJAX to the mainstream, and Google is continuing to be the guiding light in AJAX development today.

There were many vendors at the AJAXWorld show this week in New York, that told me that they had been doing AJAX long before Google. But how far would AJAX have been without Google?

Google was on the lips of nearly every presenter at the show. It was, after all, Google Maps that lit the spark of the modern AJAX revolution, and it remains the primary example of what AJAX looks like from a user point of view.

Google project manager Bret Taylor, one of the developers behind Google Maps, enjoyed near rock-star status at the show, perhaps confirming the impact of Google Maps as an AJAX game changer.

I watched adoring throngs in the audience hanging on Taylor's every word, looking to gain some kind of insight into Google's AJAX magic. In his session, he described his group cobbled together AJAX and Google Maps. Nearly every presenter and fellow attendee I spoke to cited it.

Taylor's thesis that AJAX isn't about adhering to standards but rather is about abusing them struck a strong chord that resonated with most.

Another session also attested to Google's AJAX dominance. Adam Sah, the architect of Google Gadgets, and Scott Blum, software engineer on the Google Web Toolkit team, joined Taylor and shook up the schedule a bit. Instead of doing a demo on Google's AJAX technologies, as the event schedule had suggested, Taylor instead boldly announced that he and his cohorts would simply answer the audiences' questions.

Typically at an industry event like AJAXWorld there are questions at the end of a session, anywhere from two to five. But an entire session on nothing but questions?

Not only did Taylor and crew pull it off, but he had the audience begging for more time. Question after question flew on matters large and small related to Google's AJAX activities.

One of the most insightful answers came in response to a question about why Google just didn't use Flash to execute Google Maps. Flash, after all, can do everything AJAX can and a lot more and it would have been easier to implement.

Taylor calmly answered that when a user right clicks on something in Flash they get the Adobe Flash menu. When a user right clicks on something that is AJAX they get the same menus that they are used to when using anything else in their browser. For Taylor and Google it is all about the user experience and delivering a user experience that is easy and simple for end users.

Google Maps are everywhere today as a component parcel of thousands of Web sites and mashups. The reason is simple: Google is open and lets people do pretty much want they want.

And Sah, the Google Gadget guy, could barely step five feet at the AJAXWorld conference without someone asking him something about gadgets. With the gadgets, Google will extend the AJAX model even further with application widgets that can live nearly anywhere on the Web or even on a user desktop. The move to gadgetize content and applications is already in full swing and Google deserves a share of the credit.

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