AJAX is painful, painful, painful says Google

Lars Rasmussen: “hands up how many of the developers here advertise their AJAX skills on their resume?”

One of Google’s key developers today told attendees of Google Developer Day Sydney that programming AJAX apps could be “very very painful.”

Key Google Maps developer Lars Rasmussen said that AJAX developers faced different Javascript rendering quirks in each browser but that for some browsers — notably Apple Safari — there was no debugging environment available at all.

However after talking about the pain of AJAX at length Rasmussen also had good news saying that the Google Web Toolkit had brought Google’s AJAX development out of the dark ages and into the 21st century.

“I’ve had nothing to do with creating this so I don’t have to be modest about it” he said. “Google Web Toolkit rocks.”

According to Rasmussen Google Web Toolkit completely handles the difficulties of browser compatibility differences by allowing coders to program in Java and then having Web Toolkit translate that to perfect Javascript for each browser.

“It actually generates a different set of Javascript files for each separate browser and during the startup of the web application the server picks the exact right Javascript file so the code that has to travel on the wire is only the code that has to be used to work on that specific browser” Rasmussen said.

Coding Google Maps had become painful after the development team grew beyond a certain size due to the unstructured nature of scripting languages like Javascript that didn’t force programming disciplines like traditional languages he said.

“Google Maps has a sizeable team now and it became really hard to work together while still catching the kinds of errors you have – for example if you spell the name of an object wrongly a compiler can’t catch it because it’s perfectly legal to specify a new property.”

Rasmussen said Google Web Toolkit solved this problem. He was keen to point out that Java wasn’t chosen because it is the best language above all but because it had the largest number of modern sophisticated integrated development environments.

Crowded house: developers packed in to Australian Technology Park in Sydney to hear what Rasmussen had to say