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AJAX: the legal issues

This guide is based on UK law. It was last updated in July 2008. AJAX is short for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It makes web pages more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the...

This guide is based on UK law. It was last updated in July 2008.

AJAX is short for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It makes web pages more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, rather than reloading an entire page whenever a user makes a change. It can make for a better user-experience but carries some risks.

Some security experts say that AJAX forms are at greater risk of exploitation by virus writers because there are multiple communications between the form and the web server.

AJAX can also cause web accessibility problems, particularly for screen reader users. Since AJAX is increasingly popular in forms used in online shopping, and since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 expects services like online shops to be accessible to and usable by disabled people, the problem presents a legal risk.

The problem is that, as its name suggests, AJAX requires a browser that supports JavaScript. Many browsers do not so a screen reader user would not be made aware of changes in a form. The solution is to either provide a non-AJAX alternative to a form or to allow the AJAX application to continue to function if JavaScript is not supported.

Like the security risk, the problem is not insurmountable – simply something to be aware of.

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