Hot skills: Take on the Java world as Atlas battles with Ajax

Free Microsoft extensions will help .net developers

Free Microsoft extensions will help .net developers

What is it?
Atlas is the set of free extensions Microsoft has added to Active Server Pages (ASP.net) to provide Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) development functionality. Ajax is an approach to web development that aims to minimise response time by enabling small amounts of data to be exchanged with the server asynchronously, instead of forcing the user to wait while whole pages are reloaded.
 
Ajax techniques are also intended, ultimately, to create web application graphical users interfaces as richly functional as desktop GUIs.
 
Atlas includes server-side as well as client-side components. It integrates client script libraries with the ASP.net 2.0 server-based development framework, and is fully integrated with server-based services.
 
Described as “Ajax in Microsoft clothing”, Atlas is not confined to ASP.net development, and adapts to any browser and any back-end data provider.

Microsoft claims that Atlas is both simpler and richer than Ajax, because it provides a consistent set of application program interfaces for coding in Javascript, and because Javascript does not offer the range of object-oriented, type-safe features that .net developers can use.
 
Essentially, Atlas provides the same type of development platform for client-based web pages that ASP.net offers for server-based pages. Significant portions of an application’s processing can be moved to the client, while retaining the ability to communicate with the server in the background. Atlas also includes a network stack to simplify server connectivity and access to web services.

Where did it originate?
Microsoft originally developed technologies similar to Ajax with Remote Scripting in the late 1990s, and Internet Explorer’s developers have long been able to make background requests to a server from a client web page using the XML object.
 
However, being an Active X control, this was not suitable for applications supporting multiple browsers.
 
What is it for?
Atlas is an Ajax-type platform fully integrated with the ASP.net and IIS application models, and with Visual Web Developer and Visual Studio. Unlike Ajax, application tasks can run either on the client or server as appropriate. Atlas server controls resemble ASP.net server controls – buttons, labels, options, text boxes, check boxes, hyperlinks, and validation controls – but emit Atlas client script.
 
What makes it special?
Client code can be created using object-oriented features familiar from the .net framework. The declarative model for client development is similar to the declarative syntax for ASP.net server controls. Additional client side features can be added to existing applications.

How difficult is it to master?
Atlas should present no challenges to .net developers, and makes working with Javascript easier for those unfamiliar with it.

What systems does it run on?
According to Scott Guthrie, manager of Microsoft’s web platform and tools team, “The Atlas Client Script Framework will work on all modern browsers and with any web server.” It includes a browser compatibility layer to address scripting behaviour differences between browsers.

What is coming up?
Microsoft has given a couple of community technology previews for Atlas, and given it a Go Live! licence so developers can work with it if they choose though, without support from Microsoft.


 

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