Wired on AJAX (“The name is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, and it represents a fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web.”):

Software experts say recent innovations in web design are ushering in a new era for internet-based software applications, some of the best of which already rival desktop applications in power and efficiency. That’s giving software developers a wide open platform for creating new programs that have no relation to the underlying operating system that runs a PC.

Evidence of this evolution has been popping up everywhere in recent months, with examples that include Google’s online map rendering software and its Gmail service, Amazon’s A9 search engine and NetFlix’s DVD rental platform. All highlight a dramatic rethinking of web applications, using a programming technique dubbed AJAX (for asynchronous JavaScript and XML) that significantly improves how web pages interact with data, for the first time rivaling programs that run natively on the desktop.

“For a user it is fundamentally different — it feels like a real application,” said Rael Dornfest, chief technology officer for O’Reilly Media.

AJAX overcomes a severe limitation in traditional web interfaces, which must reload anytime they try to call up new data. By contrast, AJAX lets users manipulate data without clicking through to a new page, Dornfest said. That’s putting an end to page refreshes and other interruptions that have handicapped wweb-based applications until now.

Web developers are creating AJAX code libraries and conventions to ease the burden of making applications that speak several computer languages… “This is going to go a long way towards eliminating the user interface insults and injuries we have suffered since we moved to the web,” O’Reilly’s Dornfest said. “Now people these days expect it to be flat so they might be a little surprised (by AJAX applications). But the rest of us see AJAX and say ‘Ahh, this is what it is supposed to be like.'”

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