Try to learn something about everything

Web Trek I

Internet: the final frontier. These are the voyages of citizen428. His mission: to explore strange net worlds; to seek out new forms of communication and new communities; to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Now what do I want to tell you with this rip-off Star Trek intro? The answer is pretty simple: I just love the Internet! Since my first contact with the medium around 1993/94 when I was around 14 it really fascinated me. Nowadays I’ve mostly abandoned stuff like the Usenet and BBSes and am more focussed on the WWW, which more often than not makes me spend more time online than is really good for me. Where this fascination comes from I can’t really tell, but I supposse it has to do with the enormous possibilities the web has to offer: you can find nearly all the information you want, build online communities or communicate with friends everywhere in the world in real-time. Webzines and blogging have in some cases become a valuable alternative to traditional media and additionally the WWW has taught quite a lot of people some things about freedom of expression, and how important it is to stand up and fight for your rights. At least that’s what I want to believe. Now that this intro got a lot longer than I originally intended, let’s get to the things I really wanted to tackle in this entry.AJAX: Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Sounds boring? Maybe. Makes the web exciting? Definitely. While the term was originally coined in this article, it probably were the guys developing Outlook Web Access who came up with one of the foundations of what we now know as AJAX. But the thing got really big when Google decided to jump on the bandwagon and developed some cool, high-profile AJAX applications like Google Maps, Gmail or the not quite so spectacular, but nonetheless useful Google Suggest. Nowadays there are other cool and well-known sites that make use of this technology, e.g. A9, Flickr! or Tadalist (I found the last one during my AJAX research, but it seems pretty cool). The bunch of technologies that AJAX comprises, not only make web applications more responsive, they also allow for complex tasks that traditionally would have been written as stand-alone applications. Given that AJAX just recently became a hype, I’m sure there’s much more interesting stuff to come, which I think is a good thing, but only as long as web developers finally become aware that the web should be a place for everyone, not only for people using certain browsers or operating systems. And if e.g. your fancy website is not accessible to people with screen readers anymore, you lose quite a lot. Maybe not in terms of page hits, but definitely in the “spirit of the internet” category!

I guess that’s it for today. Although I originally also planned to write about some other subjects in this posting, I think I’ll do 1 or 2 follow-up “Web Treks” instead, where each one focusses on a certain topic. Now comment away, what do you think about AJAX?