HTML and CSS Reference
new page. This feature was required for Microsoft's new web-based
client for the Exchange 2000 email server.
The stage was now set for the boom, from 1998 to 2000, and bust, from
then until 2002, of the dot-com bubble. The web exploded, both in
popular awareness and size, taking advantage of all the features of
HTML4 and, somewhat later, CSS2 . Where features were lacking in
such as Macromedia's (now Adobe's) Flash, to fill in the gaps.
Still, many people thought the future of the web was not with HTML
and CSS . This quote from a Dr. Dobbs article in 2002 is typical: “Even
today, HTML offers scant control over design essentials like typogra-
phy and screen layout, and does little to accommodate complex interac-
tions between browsers and servers. Making a trip to the server after
each mouse click is a fairly inefficient way to deliver information. As
Web development increasingly focuses on applications, markup's limi-
tations are becoming more and more apparent.”
Two events heralded a new approach to web applications. First, the
Firefox browser, which is the open source descendant of Netscape
Navigator, added its equivalent to IE 's XMLHTTP : the XmlHttpRequest
(XHR) object. Second, Google launched a web-based email application
that took advantage of this feature: Gmail.
Gmail was unlike contemporary websites: after the interface was
loaded, the page was hardly ever reloaded. Whenever the user clicked
sent an XHR request to the server, and then updated the already-
loaded page when the request returned. Gmail worked in both IE and
Firefox, and it was fast to use, comparable to desktop email clients
such as Microsoft Outlook.
Although it was far from the first web application to use XHR or simi-
lar techniques, Gmail captured the imagination of web developers
worldwide and led to a spurt in XHR -based web applications and