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We Need To See a Revolution in AJAX

M/Gateway Founder Rob Tweed Calls for Change in San Jose, CA at the 6th International AJAX World Conference & Expo

"AJAX programmers should be more focused on the business requirements of the applications they are involved in building," declares Rob Tweed of M/Gateway Developments. Tweed flew to the 6th International AJAX World Conference Expo from his UK base to make this point in a well-received presentation at a very busy AJAX World.

Whilst the recent worldwide financial crisis threatens to cast a shadow over many sectors, the AJAX development community is particularly at risk. The reason is that over the last 20 years we've seen a change in the cost elements of applications shift from hardware, then software and now the programming team. Hardware is now trivially cheap, FOSS software tools has removed their cost and what's left is the cost of programming and application maintenance. It therefore stands to reason that the ensuing months will see these come under more scrutiny than ever before. Expect to see growing pressures to reduce the need for programming and significantly lower maintenance overheads.

A key problem facing our industry, however, is that over the last 12 or so years, the task of developing web/AJAX applications has become more and more focused on programming. Meanwhile designers have been left out in the cold, unable to properly participate in the application lifecyle: a further problem because the success of an application crucially depends on its design, not its programming.

Programming at the current levels provided by the industry tools is far too low-level and focused on how web applications work, not what they do. I make the analogy with programming in the early days when applications were written using assembly code. The major revolution in computing was the emergence of the high-level languages that allowed programmers to work at a new level of abstraction, writing code using concepts that were far removed from what actually happens within the computer. The programmer defined "what", the compiler turned it into "how".

I believe that we need to see a similar revolution in AJAX development. The driving seat needs to move to the designer, with the programmer taking much more of a peripheral role, arguably reduced to the task of fetching, serving up, validating and storing data within the database environment. As much as possible of the "how it works" needs to be automated and "just work".

Should current AJAX programmers be concerned? Does this imply they'll be relegated to a peripheral role? Not really. In the same way as no modern programmer wastes their time working at the "plumbing" level of machine code, so Ajax programmers should be more focused on the business requirements of the applications they are involved in building. It's about becoming more productive and more essential to the business benefits of the company for whom they work. It's about moving up the food chain, and becoming seen as part of the solution, not the problem.

This, then, is the background to my presentation at AJAX World 2008 West in San Jose this week, and it underpins the philosophy of the development tools we've designed and built over the last 13 years. I suspect it will fast become the focus of the rest of the industry, and already at this conference I've seen some evidence of the ideas we've long promoted finally being taken on board by others. By the next AJAXWorld conference we may see some big changes!

 

More Stories By Rob Tweed

Rob Tweed is a director and co-founder of M/Gateway Developments Ltd, a UK company specializing in Web, internet and integration technologies since 1996. He has assisted major companies worldwide to develop enterprise-scale Web applications and is the developer of the design-focused Enterprise Web Developer (EWD) AJAX development framework. More recently M/Gateway has begun focusing on schemaless database technologies for use in the Cloud. Rob is the developer of M/DB, an Open Source API-compatible alternative to SimpleDB and M/DB:X, a cloud-ready Native XML Database.

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