Lately I’ve been hacking around with AJAX. Most of the time AJAX is used for little more than eye candy but I thought I had found a situation where AJAX would do actually something novel and solve an existing problem.
The problem is on our universal whois lookup site: easyWhois.com, where it has sporadically run into problems over the years where one registrar site or another (*cough* *cough* Netsol *cough*), would block us for “excessive queries”. The idea was to use AJAX to push the query back into the client’s browser, instead of doing it from easywhois. The server would be more of a switching station: it would grab the domain to be queried from the browser, find the appropriate whois server for it, send that back to the client who then would connect to that server and conduct the query. Nice, easy, simple and has the effect of difusing all the whois queries across the client IPs instead of at the central server, vastly reducing, if not eliminating blockages at remote registrar whois servers.
Throughout this process something became clear to me which I think is perhaps lost on a few people, Ajax is a tool, period. Granted that it is an essential component of “the Web 2.0 Kool-Aid”, it is not a feature and I don’t see it as an end-user selling point. It became even clearer as I explained to my wife (who is far more technically adept than the average person) what Ajax was and did and watched her eyes glaze over. And it wasn’t an incomprehension glaze over, it was a “who cares?” glaze over.
“Ajax allows one to create bi-directional communications from the client to the server without page refreshes”
0.0001% of the population: Wow!
Everybody else: *yawn*….what’s a “page refresh”?
In short, I don’t see the point in trying to turn your tools into features. We use all kinds of various tools to provide our services and most of our customers couldn’t care less what they are. They just want the box to go “Bing!” when they press the “Bing!” button and the rest is our problem.
It is beyond the scope of 99.9% of web users to even be aware of what Ajax is, and of the remainder, less care.