The impact of Javascript and XMLHttpRequest on web architecture

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This issue was raised briefly on the TAG telcon of 11 October 2007, but I think we dismissed it too quickly.

The basic WebArch story about URIs, resources and representations makes sense to people because they can see the relationship between information resource ('the Oaxaca weather report') and representation (<html><title>Today's weather for Oaxaca</title>. . . ).  When many web pages make extensive use of Javascript to compute the html that determines what you see on the screen, this relationship is weakened.  It's not just human beings doing 'view source' who lose out---search engines do too.

Although it's true that some proportion of Javascript-heavy pages are just badly designed, ignoring the Least Power finding through ignorance or laziness, it's certainly the case that some such pages, for instance those which make innovative use of XMLHttpRequest to synthesise information 'on the fly', could not be done any other way, and so don't violate the Least Power rule.

My conclusion: as we try to tell a more carefully articulated story about URIs and resources and their relationship, we need to pay more attention to the User Agent and the user experience. The thing most closely related to the Oacaxa weather report is the words I see on the screen, not the HTML which gets interpreted to produce them.

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