[FoRK] mod_pubsub way ahead of its time: Comet solves Ajax-envy

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Fri Mar 10 06:22:31 PST 2006

Damien Morton wrote:
>> XMLHTTP is almost completely irrelevant.  It was only important in 
>> that users had a gee-whiz payoff from the accomplishments of the 
>> client-side hackers.  Those accomplishments came from somewhere else 
>> -- bringing the discipline of FOSS development over from Gnu/Linux to 
>> apps hosted in the browser.
> A grand claim. In fact, in my case, it came from my experiences with 
> the capabilities of Macromedia Flash, and a general 'rich-client' 
> development mentality that was irked at the inefficient page-at-a-time 
> nature of the web. At that time, the only UNIX/FOSS exposure I had was 
> having to use UNIX at college, and a liking for Python.
I think we're talking about the "spirit" or feel of Unix/FOSS rather 
than particular genealogy.  Ideas are borrowed back and forth all the 
time.  Most of wish that Microsoft had borrowed a lot more from Unix 
rather than VMS and wherever some of the cruft (i.e. hacks) came from.
>> In effect the browser hosted running environment was just another 
>> fucked up flavor of unix to wrapper and turn into something orderly, 
>> albeit one without POSIX.
> Ahem. Bullshit. This has nothing to do with unix, and everything to do 
> with subverting the W3C page-at-a-time model of the user experience, 
> transforming it into a rich-client model (which has traditionally been 
> the domain of Microsoft).
The web itself is a Unix-like model that only gets more Unix-like all 
the time.  X-Windows, and later web browsers/servers were a somewhat 
clean extension of the extreme, but powerful, "separation of concerns", 
"focused tools", "program assembly" and other principles / patterns.  We 
are rapidly progressing along the path to real software components, 
although not really like what was originally conceived of for that 
term.  The "Enterprise Mashups" meme is one of the best examples.  I've 
been focusing on a more knowledge-centric aspect.

Windows and many of the applications on Windows are more or less 
monolithic, spaghetti code integration messes.  Track a typical 
application's use of the registry, libraries, COM components, etc. and 
it's hard to believe that anything works for very long.  Not long ago, I 
banged my head against the keyboard over development details having to 
do with C# code calling COM dlls, installation mistakes that crippled a 
machine, and COTS application cruft in the registry that would never 
occur in a Unix/Linux program.

Writing Javascript (with these new libraries) / HTML (with CSS) / Java 
applet code (especially with something like Processing) is absolutely a 
dream compared to anything Microsoft has ever released.  The server side 
is somewhat the same, although I'm a little leery of too many layers of 
Java.  Besides, I'm going back to C++ (with Boost!) for a while here.
> Probably the first major application I ever saw using this technique 
> was the MSDN website, which dynamically loaded parts of a treeview in 
> the navigation pane, and used javascript to filter out certain code 
> examples in the main page. That was back in 1999, maybe even earlier.
> I think you're really reaching to make AJAX (I hate that term) a 
> UNIX/FOSS thing. Certainly, it gives the UNIX/FOSS community a way to 
> present cobbled-together rich-client applications to predominantly 
> windows users, but its going to be extremely hard to beat a 
> purpose-built rich-client browsing environment (such as the one 
> Microsft is currently prepping in the form of XAML, whose dominance is 
> far from assured, but whose capabilities far 
Isn't XAML an imitation / embrace-extend version of XUL?  I made the 
case recently that AOL FDO was a primitive, but powerful system 
something like HTML+XUL/XAML+ActiveX components, albeit with only a 
walled garden security model and baroque development model.  But few 
people know much about that I suspect.  I was making these assertions 
over the initial objections of a current AOL guy, albeit one from 
Netscape.  Life is surreal sometimes, no?
> outstrip HTML with or without AJAX).
> On the subject of subverting the W3C page-at-a-time model, I think the 
> AJAX community is going to hit the same problems that the Flash 
> community has been striking for years; incompatibility with search 
> engines and an anti-functional or inconsistent back-button model. For 
> some reason, people just love their back-button, but its almost 
> impossible to come up with a consistent meaning for it in a 
> rich-client environment.


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