AJAX – What It Is and Why It’s Still Popular

Everyone likes shopping, right? You find that next absolutely unnecessary thing that you really need to buy, go to the checkout page, and it requests your payment information. Just as you start to grudgingly rise and go grab your wallet to transcribe your card number, you realize that Google’s autofill feature is ready to do all that boring work for you!

            We all also enjoy watching a good livestream or chatting with friends and family. As we watch the show, we like to keep an eye on what the other people that are watching it at the same time have to say and comment on it – sometimes the comments can be even more interesting than the show itself! Well, this, along with many other things we’ll get to later, wouldn’t have been possible without AJAX.

            AJAX is a group of website development techniques that, when used, can make using those websites very easy and comfortable. Practically, it doesn’t require the page to refresh every time you need to send data to a server or download some from it. This data transfer could be anything and it’s a really common thing that often happens when you interact with a website. AJAX stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, however it can also implement HTML or CSS as well.

            Apart from the online shopping forms and Google’s autofill feature, any other site or provider that utilizes the same technology in which it remembers some form of data related to you and automatically types it into different forms when necessary is also required to run AJAX in the background.

            Of course, when we mention data transfer, the first thing that pops to mind is probably uploading or downloading a file. And you’d be completely right for thinking that, as it is absolutely necessary to run AJAX in the background if you want to upload or download a file without refreshing the page half a dozen times. This implementation is actually a bit more complex than other ways in which you can use AJAX so some sites actually avoid implementing it when making upload/download pages. Instead, you’ll get a pop-up tab through which a download would begin. As with many other things, though, the website looks much more professional and comfortable to use with AJAX’s implementation.

            Voting is a crucial process in the modern world. We use it every day, whether to fill a survey or to decide who the next winner of an online contest would be. As you might have guessed, this feature is also impossible to put on a website without AJAX running in the background. Of course, you could have a voting platform where, once you vote you refresh the page, and the page remains the same until refreshed again, but we live in 2019 and that’s not really the type of webpage we’re looking for, is it? Unless you’re into 2005 website style, in which case you should probably steer clear of AJAX-powered sites, because it enables a more dynamic approach to the design of these websites, where, much like you can see the live chat messages, you can also see the numbers in the voting panel change just as they’re updated during the voting process.

            Basically, AJAX has become an inseparable part of any modern website looking to attract visitors for more than five minutes. It allows for asynchronous data transfer between the server and the client, which in turn doesn’t make refreshing the page a common occurrence. This saves a whole lot of bandwidth, frees up the server resources, and makes the website much more fluent, dynamic and engaging to the consumer. Instead of refreshing the page every single time someone posts a comment or sends a message on a platform like Facebook or YouTube, you can instead enjoy full speed communication with your peers.

            This might seem like something that’s basically requested by default from every website – and it is, which is exactly what makes AJAX so crucially important today. Without it, we’re back in early 2000s.

            Of course, there are also some downsides to having AJAX built into your website. For one, as with any other plugin, it will slow it down and make it look and feel less snappy. It’s also not that easy to implement and, as a website designer, you’re going to spend a lot more time writing the code if you want to have AJAX implemented. As a final point, there are also some legal limitations in where you can pull data from when using AJAX in the background – you can’t have access to every single server available, but only the one the client is connected to on the original website.

            However, all things considered, the drawbacks, although certainly present, are extremely outweighed by the advantages of having AJAX in your website. As technology advances and we gain better and better consumer laptops and phones, we can expect it to become even more common in almost every website in the future, making it a pretty good area of programming and website development to learn as time goes on.