Ajax and REST Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach

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Read on to learn why immersive applications that choose an Ajax-style architecture can regain harmony with REST and enjoy its benefits. As you saw earlier, traditional server-side Web applications combine presentation and dynamic data elements on the server and return fully formed HTML documents to the browser. Ajax applications are different in that the majority of their UI and application logic resides within the browser; the browser-based application code fetches new server data as necessary and weaves this data into the current page see Related topics for Jesse James Garrett's seminal article on Ajax.

The location of presentation and data binding might seem like an implementation detail, but this difference leads to completely different architectural styles. People often describe Ajax applications as Web pages that don't need to perform a full page refresh on every click. This description is accurate, but the underlying motivation is that full page refreshes are distracting and detract from an enjoyable, immersive user experience.

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Full page refreshes are even nastier from an architectural point of view in that they eliminate the option of storing application state in the client, which in turn results in design decisions that prevent applications from taking advantage of many of the Web's strongest architectural design points. The fact that Ajax lets you interact with a server without a full refresh puts the option of a stateful client back on the table. This has profound implications for the architectural possibilities for dynamic immersive Web applications: Because application resource and data resource binding is shifted to the client side, these applications can enjoy the best of both worlds -- the dynamic, personalized user experience we expect of immersive Web applications and the simple, scalable architecture we expect from RESTful applications.

Imagine that Amazon.

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Amazon might not want to do this for good business reasons, but that's a matter for another article. Because a large amount of the UI and application logic now runs in the client rather than the server, the initial page load needs to download Amazon's Ajax "engine," as described by Garrett. This engine contains a bunch of application logic implemented as JavaScript code and some UI scaffolding that is populated later with business data fetched asynchronously from the server see Figure 4 :.

An interesting characteristic of the Ajax engine is that although it contains a great deal of application logic and presentation framework elements, if designed properly, it contains no business data or personalized content. Application and presentation are frozen at deployment time. In a typical Web environment, application resources might change only every one to six months.

This means that an Ajax engine that segregates application resources and data resources is highly cacheable. The Dojo Toolkit is a good example see Related topics. Dojo provides build-time tools to create a compressed JavaScript file containing all of your application's logic, presentation, and styles.

Because it's ultimately just a file, a Web browser can cache it, meaning that the second time you visit a Dojo-enabled Web application, you're likely loading the Ajax engine from your browser's cache rather than from the server. Compare this to a highly immersive server-side Web application where every request results in significant server processing because your browser and network intermediaries can't cache the ever-changing resources.

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Because the Ajax application engine is just a file, it's also proxyable. On a large corporate intranet, only a single employee might ever download a particular version of the application's Ajax engine, and everyone else just picks up a cached copy from the intranet gateway. So with regard to application resources, a well-designed Ajax application engine aligns with REST principles and provides significant scalability advantages versus server-side Web applications.

Okay, users browse to an Ajax Web site and load the Ajax application engine, preferably from the browser's cache or, if not, from a local proxy server. What about the business data? Because the application logic and state reside and execute on the browser, the application's interaction with the server becomes very different from that of a traditional Web application. Instead of fetching amalgamated pages of content, it simply needs to fetch business data.

Going back to the Amazon. In Amazon. It also sends various session-state artifacts that let the server create a new page that includes prior session state such as recently viewed items , personalization information such as "you purchased this book in " , and the actual business resource itself. The application is very dynamic and highly personalized -- but not cacheable and not natural scalable though as Amazon demonstrates, these architectural problems can be overcome with millions of dollars of infrastructure engineering.

Now consider this action in the imaginary Ajax version of the application. No processing needs to occur with regard to "recently viewed items.

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Two requests will likely be related to the design patterns book:. The first hypothetical request returns information about the book author, title, descriptions, and so on ; it contains no user-specific data.

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The absence of user-specific data means that as more users request the same resource, it is likely that they'll retrieve cached versions of it from intermediate nodes on the Internet rather than from the originating server. This characteristic reduces server and overall network load.

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The second request, on the other hand, contains user-specific information Bill Higgins' purchase history for this book. Because this data includes personalized information, only a single user should ever successfully retrieve and cache the data from this URI. Although this personalized data doesn't have the scalable characteristics of the nonpersonalized data, the important point is that this information is retrieved from a distinct URL and therefore has the positive characteristic that it doesn't interfere with the caching of other application and data resources that are cacheable.

Another benefit of the Ajax architectural style is the ability to deal easily with server failure. As I mentioned before, server-side Web applications with immersive user experiences tend to hold large amounts of user session state on the server. I agree with the point of the post, but the history is not correct.

Using Ajax with a Scaffolded Site

Gary Burd. Dare, you've won me over with this release. Shannon J Hager. You make excellent points here. I just had a similar discussion with someone over the exact same use of the word "new". But we all know there's no such thing as "new", right? Anyway, I think this should be a signal to you guys at Microsoft. Back in , IE3 gave us the capabilities to do some fantastic things that weren't possible before.

As time went on and the technologies that you mention came into existence, that was about the same time that everyone was making a sport of smashing Microsoft. That's when Netscape refused to support ActiveX.

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And since they weren't doing that, they also decided that document. You guys are so far ahead. It should make you smile that the world is finally seeing the value in the technologies that you were trying to help them understand nine years ago. Nine years from now, people will finally understand teh value behind the common language runtime and eleven years from now it'll be XAML.

You have to give the rest of the world time to make something valuable out of your discoveries.

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Who ever used VML? I'll bet one of these "AJAX" geniuses will add that to the mix before too long since it's already in the browser. I continue my reply here I think you're missing the point behind the term: sometimes applying a mnemonic to a common practice helps to consolidate people's approach to a problem. Just look at the Design Patterns book. These are mechanisms that people have been using for years, but by collecting them in the manner that they did, it gave people a standard way of talking about some parts of architecture.

Arthur Davidson Ficke. That really was new and inventing this and the term occured simultaneously. Scott Isaac drove this work and worked tirelessly to get it into the W3C. We MSFT had a sneak preview for many developers in the fall of 96 actually showing things like pages expanding and collapsing in the gmail style and Tetris running using Javascript and DHTML in the page.

If there was a pioneer for Ajax, I'd argue that the auction demo was it. Adam Bosworth. I have one statement to make IE has it's ActiveX object..