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the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Ajax in the real(?) world

in Web x.x , Thursday, June 08, 2006

I've been using several web applications recently which fall into the Web 2.0 bucket, in particular Backpack and Newsgator. Both are very useful, although I'm somewhat dubious about the quality of Newsgator's web interface. But both show up a serious weakness in Ajax, which is basically it might not work at all in a managed corporate environment. Since Ajax requires ActiveX in IE6, and ActiveX is the Spawn of Satan as far as corporate IT security is concerned (one of the few areas I'm on total agreement with them on), we get this sort of thing: no_ngx.jpg Actually, in IE Newsgator recovers reasonably well from this, although getting this blocking modal dialog on every screen load quickly gets tedious. However, none of the drag & drop functionality works, and Newsgator doesn't degrade gracefully. Sure, Ajax is cool, but making it essential on a paid-for service like Newsgator is just bad design and bad customer service. Unfortunately Backpack, the paragon of simplicity, fares no better. It looks like it works, but it doesn't. It seems like those very cute little "working" animations are not working in this locked down IE environment, and so making Backpack unusable for the sake of some eye candy. Hardly the 37Signals manifesto, as far as I understood it. backpack.jpg

Trying to change the name of the page...

I'm not really sure why Backpack even needs this stuff. It really seems to be "Web 2.0 for the sake of it". It would work fine without all the little DHTML (er, sorry, Ajax) tweaks, which are indeed nice, and even enhance usability, but they should not be showstoppers. I'd like to evangelise Backpack with the Very Large International Corporation I work in. But I can't. Even in a not-exactly-allowed-but-you-can-hack it installation of Firefox 1.5.0.4, neither service works, although both have different problems to the ones in IE. It seems from discussion on Newsgator forums that this has something to do with how Firefox works with proxies, but investigating that would be considerably more than my jobsworth. These shouldn't be bleeding edge services. I'm sure that Jesse James Garrett didn't intend that basic usability principles should be sacrificed at the altar of Ajax. Hardly the point, I think.