| by Flemming Funch|
Google has a new Map service. Which maybe at first looks like any other online map thing. You can see the streets in some area, map a route somewhere, search for addresses and that kind of thing. But Google has a knack for making services that are really simple, and look really simple, but that use a lot of hidden wizardry. They effortlessly do things that most professional web developers would swear would be impossible to do in a webpage. But, ok, we're catching on now. So whenever they come out with something new, somebody will dissect it and tell us how they did it.
There's Google Suggest that magically can provide you lists of possible search terms as you're typing, complete with number of matches for each. Chris Justus did a thorough job dissecting that. They use the XMLHttp for exchanging data with the server in real time.
And there's Gmail. Again, seems very simple. But it does spell checking and addressbook lookups in real time. Stuff I had gotten used to accepting that one just couldn't do in webpages. But you can, with XMLHttp and with iFrames. And with some extremely responsive servers. Various people have analyzed Gmail, like John Vey. Part of their trick is that the user interface gets stored at the client's end, so that only data is passed back and forth to the server. As opposed to "normal" webpages where everything is sent from the server whenever you load a new page.
Now Joel Webber has dissected Google Maps. So, some of the same tricks again with real-time server communication, in part using a hidden iframe. And then there's the infinitely scrolling maps. The trick is in part to make them out of little tiles, and removing some at one end while adding new ones at the other end, in real time. And routes are added on top with transparent PNG files.
Now, if somebody could just pay me for duplicating some of those tricks so I can get time to study up on them. Or my skills are suddenly getting a little old.