Will the iPhone legitimize Ajax applications?

Will the iPhone legitimize Ajax applications?

Summary: If the iPhone really does have a full browser capable of displaying Ajax applications then does that impact Flash Lite and other technologies that cater to mobile devices?

TOPICS: iPhone

I stopped to read a post by Raju Vegesna about the iPhone's impact on web applications like Zoho (See, Techmeme sponsorships work). In it, Raju talks about how he's excited by the prospect of a "full fledged browser" on a mobile device:

I was particularly excited about the internet communications functionality part of iPhone. The reason is simple….when there is a device with a big screen along with built in Wi-Fi and a full fledged browser with very good ease of use, the chances of practically and regularly using web apps on a mobile device can only go up (considering my bad experiences with many existing devices). This can only be good news for web apps like Zoho as the reach goes beyond desktop.

One of my big criticisms of Ajax applications is their inability to have any kind of mobile presence. Whereas Flash applications could be ported to Flash Lite using the same skills, mobile versions of Ajax applications have been nearly impossible to implement and often require an entirely different code base to create. This was always a strong point for Flash; using the same developer resources you could easily build RIAs that were tailored for the mobile experience. Everything from the UI to the assets could be handcrafted for small screens. Ajax could never keep up.

Now the iPhone comes along and it includes the promise of a working browser. Is this going to mean that Ajax developers can depend on Apple to "mobilize" their Ajax applications for the small screen with no code changes on their part? Is the iPhone simply going to provide all the hooks for mobile versions of Ajax applications? If that's the case, and the iPhone makes Ajax applications viable on mobile devices, does that go even further to legitimize them as a full solution? I realize I'm overly critical of Ajax applications, but as the mobile space becomes more important in terms of branding and presence, I just don't think Ajax can keep up. But if the iPhone changes that game, it makes things a lot more interesting.

Topic: iPhone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Applications on Iphone

    It appears the Iphone will not allow third part apps to run on it. It is said not to support Java or Flash. I'm not sure what is reuiqred to run Ajax applications but the odds are the first generation Iphone will not run Ajax apps. Perhaps Apple will open the next gen to such things.
    • iPhone not run Java?

      "..t is said not to support Java or Flash. I'm not sure what is required to run Ajax applications.."

      Given AJAX stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, it seems like the iPhone does or at least implies the ability to run Java.
      • JavaScript not Java

        The J in AJAX stands for JavaScript, rather than Java. They're different languages
        despite the similar sounding names. The iPhone definitely runs AJAX applications as
        that is what, essentially, Widgets are.
    • RE: Applications on Iphone

      If they've got a full working browser I'm not sure they need to worry about Java or Flash to run Ajax applications. I've also heard rumors about Flash being supported - <a href="http://weblogs.macromedia.com/md/archives/2007/01/does_apples_iph.cfm">http://weblogs.macromedia.com/md/archives/2007/01/does_apples_iph.cfm</a> - but I'm not holding my breath.
    • What's required

      The idea of AJAX apps is that unlike Flash or Java they don't require additional
      plugins for the browser, but just use browser based technologies.

      All that's required is a browser supporting XMLHttpRequest - which Safari does.
      Google Maps is an AJAX application (and we see a version of that running on the
      phone too).
  • I don't really think so

    An important problem with the iPhone, is the minimum size needed for certain elements of the UI ? the buttons in particular. If buttons in a program on the iPhone become too small, people will start having to use their fingernails to navigate the application ? which would severely undermine the user experience. (I believe that this is a major reason the iPhone is closed.)

    Now people may be able to access AJAX apps through their browser on the iPhone, but in order to use the apps without zooming in and scrolling around a lot, they would have to use their fingernails. This would drive the average user crazy. Further, all of this presupposes that a person has access to a fast Wi-Fi connection, which means that most people couldn?t even think about doing the above, in most of scenarios where they use their phones.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: I don't really think so

      Very good points P. Do you think the iPhone can make that zooming and scrolling scenario user friendly? I don't really see how that could be, but Apple has a knack for crazy UI nuances.
      • RE: I don't really think so

        [i]Do you think the iPhone can make that zooming and scrolling scenario user friendly? I don't really see how that could be ...[/i]

        I don't see how either.
        P. Douglas
      • Pinch and flick -

        The touchscreen tech is crazy on the iPhone. Yes - Navigating will be very user friendly.
  • Ajax applications under Dialup or EDGE

    I wouldn't think it would be much different from Ajax applications under dialup.

    I've used a dialup connection with my web application, which has significant AJAX
    support, and had no problems whatsoever. As long as the browser works, the
    application works. It doesn't take much time to send a few hundred bytes back
    and forth even on today's dialup connections (which of course are much faster
    than yesteryear's).

    EDGE is 128k or so, which used to be a pretty decent DSL speed.

    I don't think EDGE users will have any trouble at all with web applications.
    Downloading large images is a problem, and downloading video's a non-starter,
    but web applications are not a big deal at any communication speed existing

    David Dennis
    • RE: Ajax applications under Dialup or EDGE

      What phone are you using David? I'm not all that familiar with what the mobile browsers support nowadays but it seems like that is one place that iPhone made some big strides. It's supposed to be a full version of Safari running in miniature.
  • iPhone is VERY late to the game


    Ajax has been available on all mobile devices for quite a while now. Just because something has the Apple logo on it does not mean that the feature is brand new! In 6 months, Apple will have nearly caught up with where Symbian, Palm, and Microsoft have been for years (although it will still be lacking very basic functionality that is present in all other smartphones). You could even install Opera on the iPhone! Oh, wait, you can't. You can't install [b]anything[/b] on the iPhone. Hmm, so much for supporting Ajax!
    • RE: iPhone is VERY late to the game

      I need a new phone, I keep hearing about how great Opera Mobile is but I haven't been able to check it out.
      • Can't check it out?

        Go to Opera's website and check it out for yourself. Opera can be installed on nearly every single smartphone out there. The point is that mobile Ajax has been with us for a very long time. Just because Apple [b]says[/b] it is the first phone with a fully functional browser does [b]not[/b] make it true. In fact, the reverse is true if you were to actually do a feature by feature comparison between what the iPhone browser will be able to do in 6 months compared to what mobile Opera has been able to do for years. Even PocketIE has more functionality than the iPhone browser.
    • Depends what game . . .

      The way I see it, the main thing that's interesting about the iPhone isn't the web
      support - which as you say already exists on many phones (including Nokia's
      phones that use the WebKit engine Safari uses). The thing that is interesting is the
      gestural interface (and the graphics rendering performance) - and that's way
      ahead of anything we've seen from the other vendors.

      In that sense it is a very typical Apple product - it offers less features from a
      technical point of view, but focus on the user interface that makes those features
      usable. (I have my reservations about the simulated keyboard - that's one area
      where phone manufacturers have really worked out good methods for single
      finger input).

      IMO - it also points the way forward to what mobile/small screen web apps should
      work like, and why existing AJAX/browser apps won't take off on the iPhone, in
      the same way they haven't on smartphones.

      Basically, the whole UI for small screen apps needs to be re-thought to target the
      device, and input methods on the phone have previously held us back. Although
      previous attempts in that direction - like WAP - have failed, because the market
      share for mobile browsing has never been large enough to justify the investment
      in creating specific interfaces.

      Palm or MS should have got us to this point already - they both have plenty of
      expertise in touch screen interfaces - but they didn't. And in that sense, Apple are
      right at the start of a new game, not late.

      (In fact, there's still a long way to go with the network technology/pricing before
      it's game over - it feels like we're still at the dial-up stage for Internet access, with
      networks still charging per SMS message rather than a flat rate for access - which
      will be the point at which mobile Internet will explode).
  • XDA has ajax support

    I dont see the big deal about the iphone.
    The XDA has all the same functionality with a 2 years headstart and has ajax support http://blogs.msdn.com/iemobile/archive/2005/11/15/493200.aspx for sites that support these devices.