Java and Flash offer real alternatives for those trying to build web applications that function more like desktop applications. However, they have their shortcomings. AJAX overcomes these shortcomings -- especially if you use Ruby on Rails.
Interactivity and responsiveness has been considered the USP of desktop applications and not of web applications. Even though there exist mechanisms such as Java Applets and Flash files that provide interactivity and responsiveness up to a point, they are intrusive. That is, the user needs to install either a Java or a Flash plug-in.
However, with AJAX coming into the foreground, a non-intrusive way of providing interactive and responsive web applications has evolved. Even with AJAX, the problem is not fully solved for developers. The reason for this is the peripheral integration of AJAX in almost all the existing frameworks. Still, there are exceptions in the form of frameworks that provide AJAX-based functionalities as their core services. Ruby-on-Rails (RoR) is one of them.
In this discussion, I will be focusing on using AJAX with RoR. The first section will be a brief overview of AJAX. In the second section, I will detail the steps involved in AJAXifying the RoR application. In the last section, I will be developing a real world application using AJAX and RoR. That's the agenda for this discussion.