How is an AJAX based web mail account different than an IMAP or POP account?

The future of e-mail is portable. Web based, accessible by your computer, your laptop, at your office, at your café, from your web enabled phone. Eventually it will make more sense to not use a computer program to access your e-mail, but instead, leave it on the Internet and use any of a variety of devices to read it and respond to it.

I saw a few promising e-mail technologies at the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this year. Many of the web-mail providers like Microsoft and Yahoo are switching to an AJAX platform that will make web-based e-mail much easier for users.


I’ll start by saying that you, and I, and many others know why IMAP is a better e-mail solution.

AJAX is an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. But forget about that, because it doesn’t really matter.

The language “AJAX” makes web pages appear and behave more like computer programs. More specifically, programs update automatically and dynamically on the screen. A problem with current web-based mail is how long it takes to navigate between screens, because every time you click a link you have to wait for another page to load. AJAX applications eliminate this delay.

What I saw at the Las Vegas Consumers Electronics show were web-mail applications that looked like Outlook or Eudora or Thunderbird, and operated just as quickly because they were written in AJAX.

So, AJAX is not better than IMAP. But it’s much easier for novice users, and novice users are the majority. The point is to get people away from dangerous and complicated POP mail and get them to IMAP or some other server based solution.

Google Maps are an AJAX application:

http://maps.google.com/

Notice how you can put your mouse on the map, click, and drag the map around like it was a computer program (not a website)

Writely is an AJAX on-line word processor that allows multiple people to share and edit the exact same document in real time:

http://www.writely.com/

Once again, when you visit the writely website, it works more like a computer program than like a website.

You can sign up to try the beta Yahoo AJAX mail program here:

http://whatsnew.mail.yahoo.com/

I think the best choice for most users is to have fewer programs slowing down their computer, and more of their valuable data and applications stored on the Internet.

Think about how much easier having your applications and data on the Internet is. Your data is more safe from crashes. You don’t have to install software. You don’t have to worry about incompatibilities. You can easily upgrade computers or switch computers without having to reinstall or upgrade software. There are plenty of reasons why this is the right choice.

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