Microsoft Joins OpenAJAX Alliance

In a move that promises to facilitate interoperability of AJAX-based applications developed with different tools and frameworks, Microsoft on Tuesday announced it has joined the OpenAJAX Alliance.

Microsoft is the 72nd software vendor to join the 10-month-old consortium, which hopes to assure that applications developed using AJAX with different development tools interoperate and integrate reliably.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant announced its entree into the alliance at the AJAXWorld East conference in New York.

"We are looking forward to carrying forward what you can do with AJAX and are really open in an integrated way," said Brad Abrams, lead program manager for Microsoft's Common Language Runtime, speaking at a session where the company announced its membership.

Keith Smith, Microsoft's group product manager of the Core Web/Client UX Platform and Tools team, told Redmond Developer News that the company's involvement is the result of a commitment to interoperability of its AJAX tools with other tools and frameworks.

"Obviously interoperability is the primary driver for us," Smith said. That means "making sure our solution works well in mixed environments [and] making sure developers who want to evaluate our technologies can move to our platform very easily."

Microsoft released its ASP.NET AJAX tool kit in January.

By joining the alliance, observers say Microsoft is further endorsing AJAX as a common programming style that leverages JavaScript and XML to build rich Internet applications across browser platforms, regardless of which tools and IDEs are used.

"It's going to have a lot of impact," said Jouk Pleiter, CEO and cofounder of San Mateo-based Backbase, a supplier of an enterprise AJAX framework, speaking on a panel following the announcement. "AJAX is being endorsed by an influential company that will put it at the next level. I think Microsoft will drive productivity for rich Internet application."

Jon Ferraiolo, a Web architect within IBM's Emerging Technologies organization and leader of the alliance, said Microsoft's involvement is an important milestone.

"Having them in the alliance means we have first-hand access to people who understand what their future direction is," Ferraiolo said.

However, he stopped short of saying Microsoft's involvement is critical to the alliance achieving its goals.

"If Microsoft hadn't joined, we still would be soliciting people familiar with their technologies to help us make sure they were doing things that would work with our technologies," Ferraiolo said.

The alliance's first effort, now underway, is the deployment of what it calls the AJAX Hub 1.0, which will let developers post small snippets of their JavaScript code. By registering global objects, developers will be able to support various features such as libraries, global JavaScript management, a publish and subscribe event repository, and a markup scanner. The idea is to create scenarios where AJAX widgets developed with different tools work together.

The OpenAJAX Alliance also intends to certify interoperability guidelines.

"If people are OpenAJAX Conformant, there will be a trust that this is something we can work with," Ferraiolo said.

For its part, Microsoft has not decided to what degree it will participate in the conformance certifications, although Smith said the company is keeping its options open. "Nothing is planned at this time," Smith said.

The alliance also intends to address other issues, such as security and support for mobile devices. Ferraiolo said the group does not intend to create standards or efforts that overlap those in progress today, but plans to market and support existing efforts.

The overriding goal, he said, is to assure the next-generation Web is as interoperable as the first.

"We want to be sure that Web 2.0 is as open as Web 1.0," Ferraiolo said.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine.