AJAX is the New Streaming Video

Don’t worry. This isn’t a tardy “that-AJAX-term-kinda-makes-me-squirm” post. The flogging of that poor horse has been performed by countless others already.

AJAX has been like a staggeringly successful rebranding campaign, making the world safe once again for JavaScript (or more rightly put, DOM scripting). For that we owe Adaptive Path and Google real thanks. (The former for the moniker, the latter for building the projects that helped everybody rediscover it—and that’s not necessarily chronological order either.) y now the discussion has cooled a bit among developers. But now is actually the time for designers and developers to really take notice, because awareness of the term has trickled down to clients in earnest. I say the term, but not the technology.

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately we’re I’ve been explaining some type of website interactivity and the person I’m chatting with responds, “Oh cool. So that’s some sort of AJAX thing, right?” Well, um, one letter of that acronym might be in there. Could be plain ol’ JavaScript all by it’s lonesome. Could be Flash. Could even be—gasp!—an iframe.

What we’re faced with now is a lot like the “streaming video” phenomenon of just a few years past. I lost track of how many times I had to explain the distinction between true RTSP streaming, progressive download, and vanilla “just-wait-until-it’s-finished” downloading. The term “streaming video” was on the client’s radar because it was crazy-hot. That same popularity drowned out the distinction between “streaming” and “video” as discrete terms. They see video—that’s that stuff that streams, right? It was up to me as “the Web guy” in the room to concisely outline all their options and then help them pick the technology most appropriate to the task.

I don’t begrudge this. Being able to clearly explain technical issues, even very fine-grained ones, is an absolutely core part of the designer/developer’s job. The point is that a fresh need for education is upon us, so have those explanations ready.

Who knows? Maybe you could be the one that prevents something like this from happening.