AJAXWorld 2006 October Overview

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This is a temporarily staged version of an article ultimately destined for AJAXWorld magazine's October edition.

Note that the deadline for proposed wiki-based editing changes was end of day (California time) on Thursday, August 10, 2006, which has now passed. Simultaneous with member comments, IBM's byline editing team has reviewed the text and proposed changes. Their proposed editing changes have now been added to this wiki page. However, going forward, the "master" document is likely to be a forked version of this document that is developed offline from the wiki. Therefore, all further changes to this wiki page may not be noticed and are not likely to effect the AJAXWorld articles.


OpenAjax – Fulfilling AJAX’s Promise

EDITOR Note: The byline team proposed a subtitle "AJAX - Evolving from a programming technique into an ecosystem", but Jon felt it just didn't work - too many words, so the subtitle isn't in this version.

By Jon Ferraiolo (on behalf of the OpenAjax Alliance)

One would think that an industry would slow down as it matures, but the Web has proven to be just the opposite. Innovations are happening at breakneck speed. Companies have to move faster than ever to keep up and survive.

AJAX is clearly a case in point. The term “AJAX” was first mentioned publicly in February 2005 by Jesse James Garrett. But roughly 18 months later, we have hundreds of companies delivering AJAX products, dozens of AJAX open source projects, and nearly everyone in the industry planning to adopt AJAX techniques as part of their future Web development strategies.

AJAX works amazingly well today, but to prevent technical and communications barriers that might slow the AJAX ecosystem from fulfilling its potential, leading companies and open source projects have joined together around an overarching cause, OpenAjax, and have formed a new organization -- The OpenAjax Alliance.

OpenAjax – how it was born

In late 2005, thanks largely to the globetrotting of David Boloker, IBM’s CTO of Emerging Internet Technologies, a small number of leading companies brainstormed about how to ensure that AJAX fulfills its potential as the industry standard rich application platform based on open technologies. These early discussions came to a climax on Feb. 1, 2006, with the announcement of the “OpenAjax Initiative,”whose 15 original members included BEA, Borland, the Dojo Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, Google, IBM, Laszlo Systems, Mozilla Corporation, Novell, Openwave Systems, Oracle, Red Hat, Yahoo, Zend and Zimbra.

Between February 1 and May 15, another 15 organizations joined “OpenAjax,”and the (then) 30 members held a two-day kickoff meeting in San Francisco to lay out the blue-print for the initiative moving forward. At the meeting, the group decided to call itself the OpenAjax Alliance, defined its mission, agreed on an interim organizational process, and established its initial activities. Today, the organization has more than 50 members and is growing rapidly.

OpenAjax Alliance – mission and objectives

The OpenAjax Alliance is an organization of leading vendors, open source projects, and companies using AJAX that are dedicated to the successful adoption of open and interoperable AJAX-based Web technologies. The prime objective is to accelerate customer success with AJAX by promoting a customer's ability to mix and match solutions from AJAX technology providers and by helping to drive the future of the AJAX ecosystem.

The set of technologies under the OpenAjax banner will provide the following benefits to Web developers:

  • Lower development costs and faster delivery of Web 2.0 innovations
  • Vendor choice and interoperability
  • Richer web experience and greater collaboration that can be added incrementally to existing HTML websites or used for creating new applications

Alliance activities

The OpenAjax Alliance will provide value to the software community through both marketing/communications and technical channels.

Marketing and communications

The OpenAjax Alliance will engage in various educational and communications activities. Its Web site will provide a standard vocabulary for industry terms such as "AJAX" and "OpenAjax," and will include whitepapers and block diagrams on AJAX technologies and associated best practices, with a focus on cross-vendor interoperability. Representatives will speak about OpenAjax at conferences and other industry events.

The OpenAjax Alliance Web site will provide a central point of information about the OpenAjax vision, explaining how to adopt AJAX successfully so that IT developers will feel confident about their technology and vendor choices.

Technical committee work

Most of the technical work is accomplished in committees. The following committees were established at the initial kickoff meeting in May:

  • Marketing / Architecture Committee – This committee produces the Alliance’s architecture vision documents, which help the IT manager and developer understand the AJAX landscape, the various AJAX technology alternatives (e.g., client-side AJAX toolkits vs. server-side AJAX toolkits), and criteria by which a product or technology is OpenAjax-compliant.
  • Interoperability Committee - This group focuses on the ability to mix JavaScript components from different AJAX toolkits within the same Web application. Among the first topics is JavaScript name collision prevention, toolkit loading and event management in the presence of multiple AJAX runtimes used in the same Web application.
  • Declarative Markup Committee - This group focuses on HTML/XML markup interoperability issues. Among the topics so far is mixing markup (HTML and/or XML markup) from different AJAX toolkits within the same Web application.

It is likely that other committees, such as a Mobile Committee, will be formed and begin work soon.

The technical committees will produce documents and (open source) source code. Documents will include roadmaps, whitepapers, and technical specifications. Given the focus on JavaScript issues, it is likely that most of the open source code produced by the Alliance will be JavaScript.

The Alliance is committed to royalty-free, unencumbered technologies in a manner that is friendly toward inclusion within commercial software products.

How OpenAjax Alliance differs from established standards bodies and open source initiatives

The Alliance will purposely avoid competition with existing open standards and open source initiatives and instead will collaborate with and support any relevant open technology initiative.

The OpenAjax Alliance fills the AJAX interoperability gap in the industry. Other standards organizations such as W3C develop standards focused on what building-block features browsers must support, such as HTML, CSS, DOM, SVG, and JavaScript/ECMAScript. The OpenAjax Alliance addresses a technology layer above these browser formats, where the alliance defines “OpenAjax” specifications and best practices such that multiple AJAX toolkits will coexist and interoperate with the same AJAX-powered application.


To date, more than 50 organizations have joined the OpenAjax Alliance, including:

American Greetings (AG/Interactive)
Bling Software
Dojo Foundation
Eclipse Foundation
edge IPK
eLink Business Innovations
ENOVIA MatrixOne
Fair Isaac
The Front Side
Laszlo Systems
Merced Systems
Mozilla Corporation
OpenLink Software
Openwave Systems
Red Hat
Seagull Software
Software AG
Sun Microsystems
Vertex Logic

About the author – Jon Ferraiolo joined IBM’s Emerging Technologies group in May 2006 to play a leadership role in the OpenAjax initiative. Before IBM, Jon worked at Adobe for 13 years where he was an architect, engineering manager and product manager on multiple products and participated in various document format standards activities, including editorship of the SVG 1.0 specification.

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