Personal Archaeology: Using a GIF as a Data Pipe

Way back in the history-times, in August of the year 2000, I authored an article detailing a technique that allowed for bi-directional communication between a server and a web browser without a page refresh.  The technique was, if I do say so myself, pretty clever in a primitive, kludgy, clunky kind of way.  I have no idea if I was really the “first” to come up with this but I do know that the rise of standardized AJAX a few short years later completely and deservedly eclipsed it.

Using a GIF as a Data Pipe

What I’ve recently realized is that a lot of traffic still points to that article.  I, in fact, get nearly as many 404 errors for people looking for this article as I do legitimate hits to the site (“popular” I am not).  It’s listed in the Wikipedia article on Remote Scripting and in many blogs, forums and resource sites.  For the curious various versions of it are available on the Internet Archive.

Now it’s nothing more than a weird little historical artifact that I’ll keep here on the digital mantle for posterity.

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Friday Development Anecdote

[I was reminded of my favorite “Point-haired boss” anecdote today.  Thought some of you might be able to relate.]

It was ’97 or ’98.  Netscape 2.0 (and the first iteration of JavaScript) were only a few months old.  I had designed a (then) novel inter-page server communication technique using graphics and cookies.  For the time it was, if I do say so myself, pretty remarkable (there are still links out there claiming it as a precursor to modern AJAX).

I explained how the new financial goal planning system we developed dynamically reacted to user data during a questionnaire to both dramatically improve performance and customize presentation zones with contextual, meaningful information during an interaction.  Income bracket, number of dependents, current savings, etc – it would all feed into a dynamic, context-sensitive system that presented tailored information and products.  Initial human factors work indicated orders-of-magnitude increases in user acceptance and confidence in the system.

After a 30 minute presentation about the business opportunities the new technique presented the lead executive in the room thought long and hard, nodded and then said “Can we make it blue?