Ajax on the rise, finally

My good friend Jesse just posted a great essay about javascript-powered web-apps he calls “ajax.” It’s the start of something big and I’m glad to see Google finally doing innovative stuff with this technology.

All this talk of persistent connections and javascript powered streaming data reminds me of my brief time at KnowNow back in early 2001. Adam and Rohit discovered and exploited a largely unused feature of the http 1.1 spec that allowed a browser to connect to a server and stay connected. New data would stream in via javascript and they built half a dozen of the most amazing applications I ever saw. I remember being sure that this technology would change web application development forever, and enable web apps that felt more like desktop apps, way back in 2001.

Google Maps and Google Suggest barely scratch the surface of what you can do with this technology. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on NDAs, but internally we had full blown IM environments, auction pages with real time bidding and chat with the seller, and a whole host of other demos all built in HTML and javascript that never saw the light of day. They did get seen at PC Forum back in 2001 and they caused waves. Where those waves went, no one knows.

Without going into any more details or burning any more bridges than I already have in this post, I also remember all the great ideas from the passionate engineers and designers getting squashed one by one by upper management and everyone with a good idea being squeezed out as the company lumbered from one hair-brained attempt to the next to become an enterprise software company. There was a tremendous opportunity for innovation and the company could have been at the forefront, but everyone was laid off or quit from boredom, and here, 4 years later we’re finally starting to see a few apps get built using this technology.