Definition: Ajaxification

Ajaxification: Using JavaScript to automatically convert standard hyperlinks to ajax triggers. May involve prepending actual href attribute values with a # and/or adding a class attribute value to <a> tags to allow client-side code to stop traditional click actions and instead trigger an ajax call.

Around 2007 or so, ajax was a hot topic. It allowed web sites to make calls to a web server from the client’s browser using JavaScript. The server’s response could then be used to update a portion of the client’s browser view, all without submitting a form or reloading the page. This meant you could, say, check to see if a username was already used as soon as a visitor finished typing it into a registration form, then let the user know they needed to try a different name, all before the user had even submitted the form.

This ultimately led to loads of JavaScript libraries which simplified ajax calls and the handling of responses. Ultimately, this became widespread, and today just about every modern website you use is performing all manner of ajax queries to update your web page without having to do a full reload. Many sites have become fully “ajaxified”, meaning you never browse to a new page after landing on the website. Instead, every time you click a link, an ajax call is initiated, the content of the page you requested is sent back, and Javascript running in your browser replaces the main content area of the website you’re viewing with the content of the new page you requested. This lets sites like Gmail, Facebook, and countless others give you a better overall experience because you’re only ever requesting and loading the content you need at a given time. It’s how your Google+ experience stays so responsive, the header bar never fully reloading. Instead, just the notification icons update periodically. Same stuff with Gmail. Your inbox refreshes but the whole page doesn’t need to reload.

Before there were ubiquitous tools for implementing this kind of technical web behavior – and before Google was fully JavaScript-aware – if you wanted to have a fully ajaxified website you needed to be clever about it so that not only Google would be able to index your site using traditional web links to browse all the pages, but also so your site would still be more-or-less functional in browsers that either didn’t support JavaScript or where the user had intentionally disabled it. This is where the term ajaxification (also ajaxify) originated.

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