Does anybody understand Ajax besides Google?

Ajax is a year old. Does anybody really understand it?

We all know the story of Ajax and XMLHttpRequest, about how a little known feature of Internet Explorer was mostly ignored until it was duplicated in some other browsers and Google started using it in their Mail, Maps, and Suggest features. It'll be a year ago this Saturday that Jesse Garrett coined the term. Dozens of books and articles and tutorials later, I have to wonder, is this too complex for mere mortals to understand?

Consider this article about the new GTalk feature in GMail. Once again, Google has figured out how to do something that most people thought was impossible. Or look at this article about how they draw lines on top of maps. If it weren't for 'View Source', would anybody but a few wizards at Google know how to do this? And how do they feel about us learning by looking at their source code anyway?

Where I grew up we had these trees that dropped what we called "sweetgum balls" all over the ground every fall. They were impossible to walk on or even pick up without getting pricked. Developers are scrambling to pull together toolkits and consortiums and projects to get a handle on the prickly technique that is "Ajax". Will it work? Since everyone seems to want it to work very badly, perhaps. But I think most people are just going to be sporting band-aids until we're all wow'ed by a better, hopefully simpler, solution.