March 17, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Will Ajax help Google clean up?
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system based on XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and Avalon graphics.
The stakes are especially high for Microsoft, which for the past 10 years has had to contend with the Web as a potential threat to its core operating system and desktop applications businesses.
The software giant, which pioneered several of the technologies developers are now re-evaluating, dismissed any threat to its plans for XAML.
"It's a little depressing that developers are just now wrapping their heads around these things we shipped in the late 20th century," said Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's general manager for platform technologies. "But XAML is in a whole other class. This other stuff is very kludgy, very hard to debug. We've seen some pretty impressive hacks, but if you look at what XAML starts to solve, it's a major, major step up."
So which is easiest?
Some purveyors of alternate methods point out that HTML was designed to build hypertext documents, and is now being jerry-rigged to create interactive applications. That, they claim, results in more development difficulties and compatibility issues, a harder quality assurance cycle, and the absence of prefabricated, higher-level building blocks.
"It is really, really, really hard to build something like Gmail and Google Maps," said David Mendels, general manager of platform products for Macromedia. "Google hired rocket scientists--they hired Adam Bosworth, who invented DHTML when he was at Microsoft. Most companies can't go and repeat what Google has done."
That level of difficulty might explain why it's taken until 2005 for some 1990s-era Web technologies to become more popular, said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group. Renewed interest is "partly because of some clever approaches that have been recently exploited and partly because it has been exceptionally difficult to master the underlying technologies," he said.
It isn't just Google advocating the blast-from-the-past approach. Sentiment in favor of status quo methods erupted into a schism within the W3C, where a splinter group called the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHAT-WG) rebelled against the W3C's XForms vision of Web forms--a crucial component of Web-based applications--and drafted its own specification to standardize currently widespread techniques.
The group formed last year in part to respond to the potential
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