What is AJAX?

What is AJAX?

AJAX is an acronym that means asynchronous JavaScript and XML, and describes a set of development techniques used to build websites and web applications. The best way to understand the AJAX is to begin by identifying its specific purpose in the web development process. The main function of AJAX is to update the content of the web asynchronously (the AJAX A), which means that the user’s browser does not need to reload a complete web page when only a small part of the content of the page needs be changed.

One of the most ubiquitous examples of asynchronous updating is Google’s “Google Suggest” feature. When you insert a search query into the Google search bar and the Google website automatically begins to offer auto-fill options as you type, the AJAX in action. The content of the page changes (in this case, the automatic filling options in the search bar) without the need to manually update the page (something that would make the use of Google Suggest impracticable). Resources such as Google Suggest are a fundamental part of contemporary Web browsing, which indicates the importance of AJAX in the development of the web. In addition to Google Suggest, Cascarano says that AJAX is commonly used to update features such as status and notification bars, online forms, comment sections, and surveys and surveys. But what exactly is the “J” and “X” of AJAX and how do they allow asynchronous updating?

JavaScript and XML

As mentioned earlier, the “J” in AJAX stands for JavaScript. JavaScript is a type of scripting language: coding languages are used to automate the processes of the website. Thus, Web developers do not need to individually program each instance of the process that appears on a page. In the case of JavaScript, it is specifically used to create, add and manage dynamic content of websites. In other words, after markup languages such as HTML and CSS are used to create and display static Web resources (headers, fonts, paragraphs, etc.), JavaScript is used to control resources that require updates in real time while a visitor is viewing a page (think of interactive maps, animated graphics, video scrolling, jukeboxes, etc). As JavaScript is in the business of updating the content of the page without requiring that viewers manually reload entire pages, it is an essential component for the asynchronous updating of AJAX.

The “X” in AJAX is XML (Extensible Markup Language). As its name suggests, XML is a markup language, which means that it is in the same family of languages as HTML and CSS. Marking languages are coding languages used to annotate parts of a Web document that are intended to provide instructions to Web browsers on how to understand, process and display a Web page compared to the actual text that will be displayed on the page. While HTML and CSS concentrate on indicating how the content of the page is displayed (paragraphs, headers, fonts, colors, etc.), the XML is used to transfer data stored on the page to the browsers that visualize it. Individual computer systems are generally incompatible with each other and cannot understand or interact with data formatted by a different system. XML allows developers to bypass this obstacle, storing data in simple text format between XML tags. By doing this, XML offers a way to store, move and share data that does not depend on a specific software or hardware system (something crucial for the Internet, where data must be available and understandable on all software and hardware platforms). RSS feeds – subscription web feeds that allow users to access blog content and news sources as they are updated in real time – are created with XML and are an example of the practical features of data sharing from language. But how does XML combine with JavaScript to form the AJAX?

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How does AJAX work?

According to Cascarano, JavaScript and XML combine to make the asynchronous update happen through the use of something called an XMLHttpRequest object. When a user visits a Web page designed to make use of AJAX and a prescribed event occurs (the user loads the page, clicks a button, fills out a form, etc.) JavaScript creates an XMLHttpRequest object, which transfers data in a XML format between a Web browser (the program that is used to display the site) and a Web server (the software or hardware in which the data of a site is stored). The XMLHttpRequest object sends an updated page data request to the web server, the server processes the request, a response is created on the server and sent back to the browser, which uses JavaScript to process the response and display it on the screen as content updated.

To recap: JavaScript automates the update process, the updated content request is formatted in XML to be universally understandable and JavaScript is reactivated to update relevant content for the user viewing the page. Cascarano observes that the AJAX technique ignores data from strange pages and reads only with requests for updated information and with the updated information itself. This is really the heart of the effectiveness of AJAX, making sites and applications that use AJAX faster and more responsive for users.

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How can you learn AJAX?

Although the details of JavaScript and markup languages are probably best learned through online or face-to-face classes, Cascarano says that putting these skills together and mastering the AJAX technique can be done easily through online tutorials. Web resources with the free AJAX tutorial include, but are not limited to, Udacity, jQuery, Webucator and Code School. Remember, if you have already learned JavaScript, HTML and XML, or even if you are currently in the process of learning, AJAX is simply a method to gather these skills that can be obtained over the hours, unlike a totally new skill set. And when it comes to getting jobs for web developers, Cascarano says it’s worth investing in those hours and adapting to the AJAX technique. AJAX is a technique that is so universal and fundamental to the development of the front-end that, at any time you become familiar with it, you will be rewarded exponentially. By the time I write, there are almost 5,000 job listings in Glassdoor that explicitly cite knowledge of AJAX as a requirement, and almost 93,000 front-end developer jobs in general, all of which will welcome the fluency of AJAX.


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