AJAX vs Ajax and Ajax Effects

It's happened. I suppose it probably happened the instant the acronym itself was coined but AJAX isn't just AJAX any more. It's Ajax. (No, not the place outside of Toronto. Um, no, not the cleaning stuff, either.) Notice the uppercase A with the all the other lowercase letters. (Through second-hand knowledge, I'm attributing this distinction to Jeremy Keith — He can prove me wrong.)

That's right, it's no longer an acronym. The acronym itself seemed pretty narrow in scope in comparison to how everybody used it. I think it's safe to assume that when most people think AJAX, they think XHR. Whoops, sorry, XMLHttpRequest. Heck, even that distinction is a little loosey-goosey. Some extend it to include all client-server communication without a page refresh (via Flash or IFrames, for example). With the acronym having lost its true meaning, it's just Ajax now.

And along with Ajax, we have Ajax Effects. An Ajax Effect really has nothing to do with the whole client-server communication thing. It's an effect, after all. A visual. Something you see. The only client-server effect I see these days are the lights blinking on my modem. Ajax Effects are client-side effects demonstrating to the user that something has changed as a result of their interaction with the page.

"But isn't that JavaScript?"

Yup. And so is Ajax, and DHTML, and DOM Scripting. Let's not let that get in the way of a good buzzword. Ajax Effects usually describe an effect that happens after an Ajax call. They're necessary to direct the user's attention to something that has changed on the page, otherwise they might never notice and wonder if the application was broken. YFT be born! Damn, another acronym: Yellow Fade Technique. Effects like these are very similar to effects that are strictly on the client-side. For example, a form field is left empty. We might notify the user using an error message next to the form field to indicate that the field is required. Similarly, we might use Ajax to communicate with the server to see if their username is already taken before they submit the form. In both cases, the way we highlight the form for the user should be the same. (Presenting error messages to your users in multiple ways may prove a little confusing, otherwise.)

With both scenarios offering similar solutions, they've both been dubbed the term Ajax Effects, even though only one is directly the result of an Ajax call. Like most terms, semantics do come into play here. Ajax Effects do tend to have one similar characteristic: animation. It may be animation via opacity, height, width or movement. Animation seems to be the trademark of an Ajax Effect. (I don't doubt that some of you can prove me wrong here.)

Now, if you feeling like making your own Ajax Effects, check out Thomas Fuchs' Vitamin article.

Okay, enough acronyms and buzzwords for one post. (And enough parentheses as well. Sheesh.)

Published May 25, 2006 · Updated September 14, 2006
Categorized as JavaScript
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/598


17 Comments · RSS feed
Dustin Diaz said on May 25, 2006

This is exactly what has happened. Just recently at a talk in Y! - it was found that Ajax now means DHTML. Even when we're really talking about AJAX, we discuss it like it's a real technology like "So when the user click on the button, we'll make an Ajax call..."

Looking back on it, even DHTML is a horrible acronym that we should have never used since technologically speaking, there is no such thing as Dynamic HTML. This is yet one very big reason I would rather prefer the phrase "DOM Scripting," since indeed, that's exactly what we are doing (way to go Jeremy, you coined a worth-while buzzword).

Ara Pehlivanian said on May 26, 2006

Hey uhm, I think you mean "YFT be born!"

I've gotta say, "Ajax Effects" makes me a little queezy. I much prefer "DOM Scripting" which more accurately describes what's going on.

Good article nonetheless.

Jonathan Snook said on May 26, 2006

Ara: good catch on the YFT acronym. (see, too many acronyms!)

Nathan Smith said on May 26, 2006

Actually, in Jesse's original article, you will notice that not once does he actually capitalize Ajax...


I agree though, it has become far too much of a buzzword, to the point where anything "cool" gets tagged as "Ajax" on Del.icio.us.

Justin Palmer said on May 26, 2006

I was about to write this article myself..heh. I think we should avoid the term 'Ajax Effects' all together. It has nothing to do with AJAX.

I've had some of the stuff I've done (rounded corners) linked to in an Ajax Effects article, but it has nothing to do with AJAX. I also think the title of Thomas' article is misleading. It confuses new comers.

Javascript effects should be Javascript effects. They are client-side effects created with Javascript. We are setting ourselves up for a world of confusion by continuing to endorse a term that's fundamentally wrong.

Tim Huegdon said on May 26, 2006

So many buzzwords, so little space on my resume!

To be honest, I prefer to just call all of them "Javascript" and be done with it.

Why don't other languages have all these fancy words for fancy methods? Perhaps it's a fashion thing - Javascript is the Prada-clad young professional and PHP is the balding physics lecturer with the tweed jacket with leather elbow patches...

Bramus! said on May 26, 2006

Muhaha, love where you're heading with this article. Actually, you pinch the nail right on it's head. AJAX (the acronym) has been abused by nitwits and finally has become Ajax. Heck, they see a fading image and think that it's AJAX ...

Matthew Pollard said on May 26, 2006

It's funny in the UK Ajax used to be a cleaning product (it might still be) - funnily enough Flash is a cleaning product here too - I think there's a pattern there somewhere!

Jesse Skinner said on May 26, 2006

Personally, I only use Ajax to refer to the client/server communication. But I think 95% of people who use the term Ajax use it to mean animation, drag-and-drop and, well, any other advanced JavaScript.

I also think (hope!) the word will go away in a few years. Or, more likely, be replaced by another acronym... I suggest JADE: JavaScript Ajax Drag-and-drop and Effects :)

Jonathan Holst said on May 26, 2006

No, not the place outside of Toronto. Um, no, not the cleaning stuff, either.

Nor is it the Dutch football club.

Dustin Diaz said on May 26, 2006

By the way, this totally reminded me of an old comic from OK/C called Ajax to the Max. He ironically just talked about Buzzword inflation just this week as well.

P.J. Onori said on May 26, 2006

Nice article - this subject is unfortunate because it really shows that many are throwing out terms and ideas while being ignorant to the subject. This is by no means new, but it is still annoying.

Mislav said on May 27, 2006

If you hop to del.icio.us, you'll notice all the items even remotely related to JavaScript are massively tagged 'ajax'. People have lost it in the hype. I usually avoid the term when I talk to people that don't know JavaScript and simply ask "will we do it with refreshing or without"?

gb said on May 31, 2006

Ah, but DOM Scripting doesn't have the same ring. AJAX is much easier to market and shove down people's throats. ;)

Thiago Prazeres said on June 02, 2006

gotei muito do artigo sobre Ajax.

wewew said on July 26, 2006

great paper

Laurent said on November 19, 2006

No, plain wrong.

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