This is not another XMLHttpRequest article
2 March 2005
You're probably sick of articles expounding the virtues of XMLHttpRequest by now, well this isn't one of them.
Ever since the Internet began these lines have grown increasingly blurred. Forms allow data to be exchanged between the user and the server, logins allow users to save their data, cookies allow sites to be tailored to a users' preferences. But I still see web applications as essentially different from web pages. Much like intranets, they don't have to play nice with other sites or standards (of the non-XHTML kind), because they are closed systems. Their aim is to complete a set task, not to hold linkable, publicly accessible information. When you send an e-mail, do you want its confirmation screen to be recorded in history for public posterity?
I think the essential characteristic defining the divide between an application and a web page is probably this public linkability. If the essence of your project is static information that should be available to a wider community (be it five friends or five continents), then it is most suited to a web page. This is one of the major failings of Flash sans HTML. In the all Flash model, each website is treated as a singular entity – similar to an application – and does not allow arbitrary access to parts of that website. This makes it extremely difficult to access information without following a pre-determined path.
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