Looking to bolster AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and development of Web 2.0 applications, the OpenAjax Alliance plans to introduce a project that addresses AJAX interoperability issues.

The alliance, which features vendors such as IBM, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems, will roll out its OpenAjax Hub project. This effort involves developing a standard set of JavaScript functionality to tackle problems with interoperability arising when multiple AJAX libraries are used within the same webpage. With the hub, multiple AJAX run-time libraries would be able to co-exist on a page.

Version 1.0 of the OpenAjax Hub is planned for completion by the end of this calendar year; integration of the hub into AJAX toolkits expected in early 2007.

"AJAX libraries in general believe they own the entire browser [and] JavaScript environment, that they're the first one and the last one, so they assume a consequence-free environment where they can do whatever they want to do," said Jon Ferraiolo, acting director of the alliance and a web architect in the emerging technologies group at IBM. What results, he said, are collisions of JavaScript objects and the toolkits managing HTML markup, and an inability to integrate functions such as drag-and-drop events.

Critical need for the hub

With development of the hub, the alliance is dealing with its top priority, said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink.

"There is a critical need for OpenAjax at this point in time, because each vendor's AJAX implementation is generally incompatible with the others," Bloomberg said. "Basically, even though each AJAX widget leverages XML and JavaScript, both of which are open standards, that doesn't mean that one widget from one toolkit will work with another widget from some other toolkit. The most important goal of OpenAjax is figuring out how to resolve this interoperability problem. Clearly, Ajax will be far more successful if any widget works with any other widget, toolkit, or platform."

Support for the hub is expected in toolkits such as Dojo and script.aculo.us as well as in AJAX frameworks such as Tibco General Interface and offerings from Backbase, JackBe and Nexaweb. "No one has made any commitments [to use the hub yet] but generally, [the parties cited] are all active in the alliance," said Ferraiolo.

The unveiling of the hub is part of an update on the alliance's activities that is being provided on Wednesday. The group will announce a near-doubling of its membership since its formation in February. New members include The Ajaxian, American Greetings, Bling Software, Curl, edge IPK, eLink Business Innovations, ENOVIA, MatrixOne, Finetooth, The Front Side, Ikivo, ILOG, IN2, IT Mill, Javeline, JWAX, Merced Systems, Nexaweb, Nitobi, OpenLink Software, Seagull Software, Sitepen, Sun, Vertex Logic, Vircon, Webtide and Zoho.

Previously announced members of the alliance include: Adobe, Backbase, BEA Systems, Borland, the Dojo Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, Fair Isaac, Google, IBM, ICEsoft, Innoopract, Intel, JackBe, Laszlo Systems, Mozilla Corporation, Novell, Openwave Systems, Opera, Oracle, Red Hat, SAP, Scalix, Software AG, Tibco, XML11, Zend and Zimbra.

No Microsoft

While the alliance already has an impressive list of members, one name remains conspicuously absent: Microsoft.

"Yes, we have extended an invitation and attempted to recruit Microsoft to join," Ferraiolo said. "We would love to have Microsoft participate in the alliance."

"The purpose of the alliance is to make interoperability successful such that you can take AJAX technologies from one source and use it with another vendor's. Microsoft is one of [those] vendors and an important vendor in the AJAX community and it would be to everybody's advantage, particularly customers, if Microsoft's products would interoperate well with other people's products," said Ferraiolo. He added he was not making a statement that Microsoft products currently do not interoperate.

Although Microsoft has promoted AJAX via its Atlas technologies, Microsoft currently does not have plans to join.

"Microsoft has no firm plans to join the OpenAjax Alliance. However, Microsoft is very committed to working with the developer community and is engaged in dialogue with the OpenAjax Alliance organisers to learn more about the initiative," Microsoft said in a prepared statement.


The alliance seeks to serve as an industry catalyst to boost AJAX-enabled Web 2.0 applications. Ferraiolo defines Web 2.0 as a new generation of the web focused on collaboration. OpenAjax technologies are intended to produce lower development costs, faster delivery of applications, vendor choice, interoperability, and a richer web experience. Greater collaboration capabilities that can be added to existing HTML sites or used for new applications is another goal.

AJAX in the open source world also is being included in the alliance's list of issues to cover. One of the goals for the alliance is the ability to have a zero-cost option, but it's not trying to lock out vendors from making money at all," said Ferraiolo.