Microsoft’s attempts to take control over dynamic Web content are officially over. My proclamation comes after hearing from Marty Focazio, who works for ScribeStudio.com. The company offers a service for users to quickly create, package and publish their own dynamic content, such as e-Learning Programs, video seminars and multimedia presentations.
Marty is just one of many people that changing their Web sites over from Active X and popups to display dynamic and interactive content. I’ll let him explain.
While I was not here when that decision was made, I am faced with dealing with the downstream effects of having a service that won't run on Firefox, occasionally requires the installation of an Active-X control, is Mac-hostile and requires people to explicitly allow pop-ups. So what's the alternative? In a word, Ajax.
In many ways, we have to go Ajax, just to reach our corporate customers, because we're seeing flat-out bans on Active-X, a pretty substantial move away from IE, and an increasing number of Mac systems. Not to mention that a site that uses unrequested pop-ups, whether it's our own or the US Postal Service, can't be around that much longer. So we're fixing these issues. It's not pleasant and it's not fun.
The reasons for the use of Active-X and Pop-ups were essentially that the user needed to be able to interact with the server and stored data in a way that wasn't really possible without Active-X, or at least not to the level of interaction that's more like a "local" application, in terms of things you can do with the data on your computer and on the web server.
For example, we have a really nice text editor - word processor, really, that is pretty much the same as the Writely product Google recently bought. But again, that's an Active-X control, not an Ajax-y thing, so that's gotta go. That's the root of the issue -- our application lets people create online versions of their courses, events and presentations, and there's a huge amount of data interaction involved, so the ability to extend the user's computer into our servers and vice versa is at the heart of the matter.
In the end, it's kind of the whole "network is the computer" model that's making Ajax compelling for us. Yeah, that's old news, but when you treat a web browser as a "sandbox" for your application, and you have what feels like live data interaction, you can begin to do what Java promised and never delivered. Instead of slow-loading, jerky applets with annoying interfaces and horrendously pokey jsp servers, with Ajax like development, I have a "never stop writing, run almost anywhere" environment which is less sexy than "Write once, run anywhere" but is more pragmatic and fits the reality of the market.