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Dojo Stabilizes Open Source Ajax Toolkit

Ajax development is all about having dynamic, Web-based applications that can do things that static HTML simply cannot. But that's merely a pipe dream if your toolkits -- which provide core functionality on which other applications can build -- aren't up to snuff.

Fortunately for fans of the open source Dojo Toolkit, its new version 1.1 release offers improved stability and performance. That's important considering the large role that Dojo plays in the Ajax community, as one of the most widely used Ajax toolkits and one of the highest profile -- the toolkit has the backing of some high-profile players, including IBM, Sun, AOL and Nexaweb.

"The Dojo 1.1 release is primarily about stability," David Boloker, chief technology officer for IBM Emerging Internet Technologies, told InternetNews.com. "This release includes nearly 600 bug fixes, and it remains compatible with the previous 1.0 release."

Boloker added that with this release comes a new API reference tool as well as additional user interface themes. There are also new widgets, such as the BorderContainer layout, an analytics package and other enhancements designed to make Dojo easier to use.

While the 1.1 release is a point release over the 1.0 release, many users are still running with the older 0.4 release. Dojo's developers are quick to encourage users to migrate to the latest edition.

"There is dramatically improved performance, modularity and look and feel over 0.4 [and] improved stability and functionality over Dojo 1.0," said Rob Gagne, vice president of engineering at Nexaweb, told InternetNews.com. "Also dramatically improved in 1.x over 0.4, but not visible to most users, is the degree to which developers can programmatically interact with components and the fact that <div> tags are no longer needed to host components as they are created."

Despite the benefits -- and the fact that IBM has been involved with Dojo since at least 2006 -- Dojo 1.1 won't make its way into IBM's product line immediately, according to Boloker.

"IBM will make Dojo 1.1 available internally for product development but we can't comment on what products will ship with Dojo 1.1 at the present time," he said. "We are shipping Dojo 1.0 in many of our products, including the WebSphere Application Server."

The release is perhaps more immediately critical for Nexaweb. Dojo is the user interface foundation for the firm's core Ajax offering. Gagne said Nexaweb provides a declarative approach to building applications that leverages XML to describe the user interface and to describe how the user interface connects to data on the server.

"The XML tags developers use to build applications are mapped to Dojo components by Nexaweb's library, " Gagne said. "This prevents Nexaweb from creating yet another UI toolkit, yet allows us to provide a simpler and more maintainable way to build rich, complex Ajax applications and Web sites."

Much work remains to be done to improve Dojo, supporters said. For Gagne, the look and feel of Dojo still needs improvement. In his view, other Ajax toolkits such as Yahoo's YUI (Yahoo User Interface) are superior in that area.

For IBM's Boloker, the focus will be to continue to invest in core and widget development and work with the community to continue to refine the toolkit.

"The next Dojo releases will focus on consistency in the Dijit -- Dojo's interface widgets -- user experience," Boloker said. "Also, the team will need to add testing and support for [Internet Explorer 8] and improve the mechanism for producing community-driven extensions to the library."