Microsoft Corp has joined the OpenAjax Alliance, providing a significant boost to the web applications interoperability group.
Founded roughly a year ago, the OpenAjax Alliance sought to foster interoperability between at least 200 different Ajax frameworks out there.
By last fall, virtually all the major software platform and development tool providers had joined, with Microsoft being the last major holdout. This week, 30-odd new companies signed up, Microsoft among them.
Interoperability in the browser is a hard problem, but it opens key Ajax scenarios, wrote Microsoft’s Bertrand Le Roy, a developer of its Ajax platform, who will represent Microsoft on the steering committee, in his blog.
An industry-wide organization such as OpenAjax is a great way to ensure this goal is met in the long-term, he added.
Since the group’s founding, OpenAjax has kept it goals modest.
We weren’t looking to be a standards body, we wanted to talk on how Ajax is perceived and about the use of widgets, said David Boloker, who heads the steering committee of OpenAjax, and is CTO of emerging technology at IBM.
Clearly, job one was finding a way for the over 200 Ajax tools and frameworks out there to be able to accept each others widgets, because in a world of mashups, mixing and maxing widgets from different Ajax frameworks was going to be inevitable.
Developers won’t probably mix and match, but they will probably want to borrow a couple widgets here and there from other frameworks, said Boloker.
During its first year, OpenAjax’s best known activity has been the OpenAjax Hub. It’s intended as a runtime that standardizes the mechanism of publishing and loading Ajax libraries, and checking for the collisions that are bound to happen when you build mashups.
More importantly, it’s what OpenAjax hasn’t done that probably made it attractive, or at least non-threatening to Microsoft. For instance, while it deals with IDEs, OpenAjax won’t define one.
We have formed a task force on IDEs, but our focus is not to promote any IDE, but to deal with interoperability, said Coach Wei, founder and CTO of Nexaweb Technologies, who is on the OpenAjax steering committee.
Once we were satisfied that we met the needs of our core audience, we wanted to branch out, said Keith Smith, group products manager for Microsoft’s Core Web Platform and Tools Group. Over the past year, Microsoft introduced its own Ajax framework, initially code named Project Atlas, and then released formally as ASP.NET 1.0 for Ajax.
Given that Microsoft only decided to join OpenAjax a couple of weeks ago, it hasn’t yet decided what it intends to do in the group. But it, and the other 30 new members, will have plenty of chance to dip their toes into the water when OpenAjax convenes its spring meeting in New York on Thursday and Friday this week.
According to Boloker, one of the top items on the agenda will be security. It’s not that Ajax is going to define new security mechanisms. But, as a collection of technologies that exposes the web in ways not originally foreseen, it may exacerbate some of the problems that are already present in web apps.
For instance, when you mash up two or more web pages dynamically, you may increase the likelihood of exposure to hazards such as cross-site scripting that can send innocent web queries to criminally-run sites.
So the meeting will provide an opportunity to identify what are the hazards so they can be brought up to the appropriate bodies such as W3C and IEEE.
With Microsoft, OpenAjax has now pretty much attained critical mass in the vendor community. Boloker now wants to boost membership among users and organizations outside the US.
Besides Microsoft, other new members include ESRI, a GIS mapping software vendor; HR-XML, a standards body; OpSource, which provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) enabling software; Tealeaf Technology, which instruments web interactions; and tooling providers ActiveState, Helmi Technologies, and Lightstreamer.