Years ago, having a web presence was a distinguishing factor for companies. That is no longer the case. Now just having a web presence is no longer enough. Companies are distinguishing themselves further through web applications that react intuitively to customer actions and anticipate user input. This book shows you how ASP.NET AJAX addresses specific web development challenges and paves the way for taking your website to another level of user experience. In this chapter, I discuss the need for richer frameworks in web application development. I talk about the key pieces of the ASP.NET AJAX platform and highlight some other options.
The fundamental set of technologies that enable the next generation of web applications are not new. Online news articles and blogs point to Google, Flickr, and several other services as prime examples of leveraging these technologies in unique ways. The applications have some unique features, but in reality, the underlying technologies have been around and in use for nearly a decade. Take a look at how Microsoft Exchange Server provided rich access to email from a web browser in the Outlook Web Access application, and you can see that the concept of ubiquitous access from a browser while leveraging a common set of browser features for a rich user experience has been around and in practice for years. Users get a remarkably full-featured application with no local installation and are able to access e-mail from virtually any machine.
Even that rule can be bent. Some applications are pushing this boundary and completely changing the user’s view, just as though they navigated to a new page, but they do so through an asynchronous post and by changing the page content without actually navigating to a new URL.