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Ajax, DOM, RSS, XHTML, SOAP… all that stuff! It’s easier than you think!

AjaxAlright… this is a SUPER BEGINNER blog entry for all my son’s friends out there that wonder what it is that I do all day.

Ajax, DOM, RSS, XHTML, SOAP, XSLT, HTML, HTTP… blah, blah, blah.

What does it all mean? Plain and simple? It means your system can talk to my system. We have a common language… we talk through Hypertext Protocol (our voice) and XML (or close to it… is our language). Alright, what does that mean? Well, it means I tell you first what I’m talking about and then I talk about it, and after I’m done talking about it I tell you that I’m done.

I’m saying my first name.
I’m done saying my first name.

In XML this is:

The great thing about XML is that I can send streams and streams of information to you. I can even send you multiple records at the same time:

I’m sending you people.
I’m sending you a first name.
I’m done sending you a first name.
I’m sending you a first name.
I’m done sending you a first name.
I’m done sending you people.


So… if I can speak your language… then we can talk to each other, right? Absolutely! This is how all of these technologies work. You can get onto Wikipedia and look them all up, but it’s pretty plain and simple. In fact, it’s how you’re reading this blog entry right now. You put my address into your browser and your browser said… hey,, you there? I said yea! Here’s my HTML. And you knew where my page started and ended based on the tags in my HTML (HyperText Markup Language).

If I program it … it doesn’t matter what kind of system you are on or I am on…we can speak to each other no problem. I can use PHP and talk to a server running Java, .NET, Perl, ASP… anything. Cool, huh? Sure it is, c’mon!

If I create a great program and you want your system to talk to mine, I’ll build an API, or Application Programming Interface. That allows you to request information from me… and I’ll push it back to you in XML. Sound tough? It’s not… that’s how Google works! Check out the address after you click submit:

I said… hey Google, I’d like to query your system (q) for Douglas Karr. There you go… q=Douglas+Karr! And then Google responds with a bunch of HTML for my browser to show me. Hey, I’m #1! Woohooo.

RSS is very similar. My blog has an RSS feed that strips all the extraneous graphics and formatting out and just throws the content out there for you to see. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication… geek speak for some more XMLish stuff. Now I can view the blog in a ‘Reader’…

This is where integration is fantastic. I can pass content, data, events, information, conversations… virtually anything using XML. Every modern language out there can use XML (fancy term is … consume XML) and it does so by ‘parsing’ the message. That just means breaking it up so it can figure it out. SOAP is another means of passing XML back and forth.

The latest craze is Ajax, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Yikes, sounds tough. It’s not really. Ever click on a button and a window or a message pops up on your browser? They did that using JavaScript. JavaScript is a programming language that can run at your computer rather than on some server somewhere. That means that I can give you a cooler experience by doing a whole bunch of JavaScript locally. Check out Payraise Calculator. Notice how you type in the values and tab through the fields that the page changes? That’s Javascript.

Folks are using JavaScript to create RIA.. Rich Internet Applications (we love Acronyms). Ajax takes it a step further. I can actually write code in my page that will, without you telling it to, talk to another page somewhere else, get the information, and then bring it back without you ever having to leave the page!!! Again… Payraise Calculator. When you type in the information and click “Calculate”, the page submits that information to a calculation page back on the server. The JavaScript then reads the response and formats it nicely.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the page that it talks to: Notice there’s no actual values… that’s because I didn’t actually post anything. But you get the point.

So what does all this mean? Well, RIA will take the net and make it a lot easier. Opponents scream that it we’ll always have to have programs like Microsoft Word and Excel. Really? What about Google Writely and Spreadsheets? It’s just around the corner folks.

The irony of this was that 20 years ago was the boom of the Personal Computer where we didn’t have to be anchored to some ‘mainframe’ system. Well… guess what?! We’re back on the mainframe… there’s just a whole bunch of them out there on the net.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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