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The state of the scripting universe

Lynn Greiner | Sept. 1, 2008
With the rise of Web 2.0, scripting languages are now often considered important tools in a developer's arsenal. What effect has the growing prevalence of Ajax had on the adoption of the various languages? Are people adapting the techniques to languages other than JavaScript?

Boyd: Other than a greater comfort with dynamic languages, I don't know of specific impacts of Ajax on other languages. The techniques of Ajax are really only applicable inside the browser.

Dice: Ajax is entirely a JavaScript phenomenon-it stands for "Asynchronous JavaScript and XML." It is not so much a technology itself as a way of combining several existing technologies (CSS, XHTML, XML, DHTML and JavaScript, and the various document object models (DOMs) available within modern Web browsers). Taking these technologies together and calling them Ajax, Web applications can be made much more usable, visually appealing and functionally rich than previous Web application development paradigms afforded.

The first scripting language to benefit from Ajax in a big way was Ruby, though this was much more an accident than anything else. A Ruby Web rapid application development framework called Ruby on Rails started gaining attention in 2005. It had three things in its favor: it was based on the Ruby language (which a lot of people find quite nice to program with), developers found it to be a significant boost to productivity, and it was the first framework to integrate with any Ajax library. So it quickly became identified with Ajax and vice versa. Nowadays, every major scripting language has decent integration with every major Ajax library.

Most Ajax usage in Web applications development involves interaction with the server-side of the Web application. The front end of the application-the end that lives on the Web browser-is HTML, Javascript, Ajax, etc. The front end interacts with (and most often is dynamically created by) the back-end, which can be programmed in Perl, Python, Ruby (or Java, C++, Smalltalk, Lisp, etc.).

Hobbs: JavaScript is just the front-end language, often with a dynamic language on the back-end. These are commonly Python, PHP or Ruby (Rails), as they have become popular through common Web frameworks. Dynamic languages are common because they are much easier to use than Java or .Net on the background, providing as much as 10x more developer productivity. You can always throw more hardware at a problem, but getting something solid out on time is key, and dynamic languages provide great leverage to succeed.

Holden: Since Ajax is simply asynchronous network calls, it is not affecting the adoption of any specific language beyond more JavaScript usage in webpages. The technique of Ajax is in no way new and has been available for decades, including in Python.

In the Python world, the TurboGears framework in particular accommodates support for several well-known Ajax toolkits, but the emergence of Ajax is essentially orthogonal to the language used for Web development, and is as likely to be used in the ASP.Net environment as by Python users.


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