Welcome to the new look and feel of Tech Talk. Along with a new look, the Powers That Be have decided to change the name of this column, but we’re still discussing whether I’m a technology diva, full of technobabble or live on the bleeding edge. So, for now, it’s still Tech Talk.
Along with these changes, this columnrepresents another change as well: I’m writing it using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word. If you’ve never used Google Docs, you might be surprised at how much it feels like using a desktop-based word processor. And that’s because it almost is. Most of the work being done by Docs and similar applications is happening right on your computer.
In the olden days, circa 1995, a Web page (the browser, really) sent data to a server, the server did something with it, and sent a whole new page back to the browser. It’s hard to imagine writing a document in such an environment. Sure, you could type your document into a text box, but you couldn’t make the characters bold or italic, or even change the font.
But the problem of sending data to the server and getting a whole new page back persisted. Every page refresh constituted an interruption in the user’s experience, clearly different from the seamless look of a desktop application. It’s interesting that it was Microsoft that developed the next big innovation that finally allowed browser-based applications to become a reality. It’s name? XMLHTTPRequest. Surprisingly, it was first released in 2000 as part of Internet Explorer 5.5.
There’s more to the story, but Word, er, Google Docs, is telling me I’ve reached my limit. Tune in next month, when I’ll discuss the real impact of browsers that run programs.
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