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Ajax on Rails by Scott Raymond

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Cross-Platform Development

One of the most significant challenges in building web applications is providing an experience that’s consistently usable across various platforms. Rails provides tools to help minimize the complexity, but effective cross-platform development still requires awareness and testing.

Realities of Platforms

Platform is a slippery concept. The Web itself is a platform—a relatively consistent, standardized environment for developing applications. If only it were so simple!

In reality, each browser has idiosyncrasies, bugs, proprietary features, and slightly different interpretations of the standards. The headaches of cross-platform development are nothing new for experienced web developers. From the earliest days of the Web, no two browsers rendered HTML precisely the same. When Netscape 2 introduced JavaScript and the DOM, web developers enjoyed a brief moment when there was only one implementation; ever since, they’ve had to content with browsers diverging on another axis. The story repeated itself with CSS, and again with XMLHttpRequest. No doubt the cycle will continue, perhaps with an emerging technology like SVG.

What makes a platform

A platform on the Web is more than simply a particular browser brand. It’s a particular version of a particular browser, on a particular operating system. In other words, Internet Explorer 5 on Windows is a (very) different platform than Internet Explorer 5 on the Mac (in fact, they share almost no code). And Internet Explorer ...

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