I saw an interesting post on Daniel Cazzulino’s blog titled “AJAX may be the biggest waste of time for the Web” and I agree with the initial premise of the post – that is, that AJAX is a waste of time, but that’s about where the agreement ends.
The other problem with AJAX (though this is mostly solved with a decent framework) is the browser incompatibilities. But then, browser incompatibilities are par for the course with any web work, I guess.
Now, Daniel goes on to say:
Which is where I completely disagree. All you’re doing here is trading one set of problems for another set. I mean, I admit it’d be pretty cool to be able to “browse” a 3D virtual Amazon, but in terms of actually being useful, I can’t see how it would be. I mean, how do you “search” in a 3D world like that? What about accessibility? How would a blind person interact with it? I’ll admit that these aren’t unsolvable problems, but this is probably too far removed from the current status-quo to be anything but a cool “toy.”
It kind of reminds me of that scene in Jurassic Park (I forget which one) where the girl starts using their computer, and after muttering something like, “This is UNIX – I know this” she flies around some weird 3D world or something1...
Another point Daniel makes is:
There is already a web technology that would readily support building next-generation websites: Flash. It's deployed on **98%** of internet-connected PCs.
Now, while that 98% thing may be true, Flash is most definitely not a technology for building next-generation websites. The reason is probably more of an image problem than anything technically wrong with flash itself, but traditionally Flash-based sites have had horrible usability problems. It’s basically all the problems I listed above for AJAX, the only difference being that Flash sites look a little better than standard HTML+CSS.
This is actually where I think XAML has something over Flash. It’s designed to be a proper, first-class UI platform. Flash was originally just a way to get nice-looking vector-based animations onto a web-page – all the UI and scripting stuff came later (and by then, it was too late – Flash was a tool of the artist, not the user interface experts). XAML has all the nifty vector-based graphics (and proper 3D, if that’s what floats your boat) while at the same time, allowing for highly-accessible interfaces.
So, while I do believe that AJAX is (often) a bit of a waste of time, I believe the “future” is going to be something like XAML. I don’t even mind XUI on Firefox, but it’s not quite as advanced as XAML is. Anyway, time will tell.
1 Another thing about movie-style computer interfaces that I never understood. You’ll often see people typing like 30 words a minutes on the keyboard, but on screen all they seem to be doing is manipulating some graphical objects, or it’s like 15 keystrokes just to open another window... are mice non-movie-friendly or something? Or maybe using the keyboard makes them look more hacker-ish?