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The Ajax Experience 1: Google Chrome shakes up the browser firmament

Responsiveness of Ajax apps can only improve as browsers get faster. Google's shiny new Chrome browser is just one of several in a very active browser segment. The ins and outs of that JavaScript infused segment were on display at The Ajax Experience in Boston.

Read At The Ajax Experience 2 Continued: Browser competition moves Web applications forward.

For all its ubiquity, the Web browser interface went through a few years where it evolved very little. At one point Microsoft IE was about the only game in town, and it set the baseline for the browser. That began to change with updated versions of IE, Safari, Opera and FireFox browsers.

The browser segment seems even more competitive as a result of Google's recent release of a multiprocess Chrome browser beta. Enterprise architects will watch emerging benchmarks in order to see if Ajax has really been juiced enough to meet their expanding needs.

The Ajax revolution was based on some pretty clever JavaScript hacking. When browser innovation waned, a new generation of JavaScript programmers arose to create Ajax. They used novel techniques to work around browser limitations – and browser bugs.

At The Ajax Experience conference this week in Boston, it appeared that the JavaScript Framework and library makers - open source advocates, all – still grapple with Web browser incompatibilities and flaws. They do, however, seem to be benefiting from renewed browser innovation, much of it centered on speeding performance.

This work could help the infant market for business Web mashups, or composite applications.

"JavaScript had been the stepchild. Now with new technology, all these browsers are kicking into gear and innovating again," said Dion Almaer, co-founder of conference host and member of the Google Developer Programs group.

While browser multiprocessing ala Chrome may have benefits, true threading may yet be required to keep Ajax HTML pages competitive with so-called Rich Internet Application interfaces such Flash and Silverlight.

"We have had a bottleneck in the browser," said Ben Galbraith, CIO and chief software architect of MediaBank and co-founder. "We have to find a way at the application level to handle it. A problem is that we don't actually have threading right now."

Galbraith said coders are finding ways around this by using background work processors, as supported in the Gears toolkit and some upcoming Web interfaces. Meanwhile, there was evidence at The Ajax Experience that better vector-style graphics execution is something people are pursuing.

Why Chrome?
Why did Google build the Chrome browser? "To create competition," said Google Software Engineer Ojan Vafai. "Browsers have been developing slower than Web applications' needs."

"Applications should become first class citizens in Web browsers," said Vafai. "I think we will continue to see performance change." He suggested better DOM performance metrics in the future will lead to further performance enhancements.

Although it has its own unique V8 JavaScript engine, Google builds much of Chrome on the open source Webkit renderer also used in the Safari browser. Vafai said the Chrome lead developers were not trying to push the envelope for performance in the initial release. He said they were basically trying to match other present Webkit implementations.

Read At The Ajax Experience 2 Continued: Browser competition moves Web applications forward.

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