5.3. Promises and Problems of Combining AJAX with Other New Technologies
As you work with AJAX, you may hear of related technologies that you can use with AJAX. They fit into two main groups: mature technologies that are widely available in many browsers today, and new technologies that are available only on a specific browser. The mature technologies include Java and Flash. (Flash is the most important because its plug-in is widely installed, and its design is optimized for providing interactive elements and animations to Web sites.) Java can also be used to add interactivity to sites, but its popularity has waned over the past five years, and it's no longer installed by default everywhere.
5.3.1. Combining AJAX with Flash
5.3.2. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
SVG's biggest problem is that browser support has been slow to develop; a plug-in from Adobe currently supports many of its features, but it leaves some of the same integration problems as Flash. The next versions of both Firefox and Opera browsers will have built-in support for SVG, but that still leaves it as a niche technology that can be used only on internal projects.
SVG is also missing a canvas element, so there is no way for users to draw on elements, as can be done with Flash. To address this, a bitmap canvas was created by Apple for its Safari browser. This effort has since been codified by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). This group is supported by many browser developers, including Mozilla and Opera, so support will be forthcoming in new releases of these browsers; however, support by Internet Explorer seems less certain.
5.3.3. XML User Interface Languages
XUL was created to define the user interface of Mozilla's browser and has been available for a number of years. Recently, it has begun to gain momentum as Firefox has increased in popularity, but it will never be able to move beyond niche products until other browsers support the language. XAML was created by Microsoft as part of its .NET effort, and it is scheduled to be released as part of Windows Vista. It's hard to know what its effect will be until it's widely released and until we know how accessible it will be to Web developers.
The rise of popular new Web browsers has led to the creation of exciting new Web technologies. The biggest problem is that most haven't made it beyond being implemented in a single browser. As support for these new technologies increases, they may become larger players, adding in the technology needed to increase interactivity beyond the level that AJAX and dynamic HTML (DHTML) can reach on their own.