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What Is AJAX in PHP?

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If your business is seeking to create a fast, dynamic web design, you will likely be interested in the topic of AJAX in PHP. It is a little misleading to say AJAX in PHP since the two are not necessarily interdependent. However, AJAX and PHP are commonly used to complement one another in web development.

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Before we can begin to understand how AJAX and PHP work together to create responsive web pages, we need to understand what AJAX and PHP are and their differences. If your organization wants to create something more complicated and satisfying than a static web page, it is crucial to understand the tools used to build dynamic websites.

AJAX Vs. PHP: What’s the Difference? 

AJAX and PHP are often conflated since they are usually used in tandem, but it is essential to understand that you can use AJAX without PHP and vice-versa. So let’s take a closer look at both of these technologies.

What Is AJAX?

AJAX stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is not entirely accurate to call AJAX a web technology because, in reality, AJAX is a development technique for creating dynamic web pages. AJAX is rooted in Internet standards XML, CSS, XMLHttpRequest Object, and JavaScript/DOM.

AJAX uses JavaScript to interact with and display data, XML to format transferred data, CSS to style data, and XMLHttpRequest Object to communicate and exchange data with a web server.

AJAX techniques are used on the client-side of a website or application. AJAX communicates with the web server behind the scenes so that web pages can be updated asynchronously. What this means is that portions of a web page can be updated without reloading the entire website. Dynamic websites like this are the modern standard for web development.

However, you have likely come across websites that don’t use AJAX. Websites that don’t use AJAX are referred to as “Classic Web Pages.” You will immediately notice when a website doesn’t use AJAX techniques. Whenever a change is made, the entire page will have to reload.

Are you familiar with the suggestion feature on Google Search? This is the feature that made AJAX famous after Google started using it in 2005. When you begin to type a query or phrase of words into the search bar on Google, JavaScript code transfers the letters to a server that proceeds to return a list of possible suggestions.

AJAX is browser and platform-independent. However, as previously mentioned, AJAX is used on the client-side and will still require server-side communication. This is where PHP enters the conversation.

What Is PHP?

PHP is an open-source server-side scripting language. It is used for a wide range of different tasks, including generating dynamic page content. PHP scripts are executed on the web server. This differs from AJAX which is executed on the client-side. PHP files contain HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP code.

Once PHP code is executed on the server, it returns to the web browser as HTML code. PHP is very popular with web developers because it runs on almost all servers and most operating systems. In addition to generating dynamic web pages, PHP is used for:

  • Creating and editing files on the server
  • Collecting data from web forms
  • Sending and receiving cookies
  • Adding, deleting, and modifying data in your database
  • Encrypting data
  • Controlling user-access

Furthermore, PHP code is not limited to outputting HTML. PHP can also output XML, Flash movies, PDFs, images, and XHTML.

How AJAX and PHP Work Together 

Now that we understand AJAX and PHP better, we can explain how these two work together to create dynamic websites. We have already shared that AJAX is executed on the client-side and PHP on the server-side. So think about the relationship between the client-side and the server-side as two sides of the same coin.

Let’s use the example of text auto-completion similar to the Google Search bar to illustrate how AJAX and PHP can work together. When you begin typing into an auto-complete bar, AJAX techniques send this information to the web server. This information is then collected and processed on the server-side by PHP code. Once the appropriate data has been collected, edited, etc., it is sent back to the client-side as XML data. Finally, after the information returns from the server, it is dynamically displayed to the user by AJAX standards.

This is a simple illustration of how AJAX and PHP work together. However, it is essential to remember that you could use AJAX with another server-side connection to a database like Java or ASP.NET.

Final Thoughts 

Using AJAX and PHP is a common way to create a dynamic website. However, this is not the only option available to your business. If you want to fully explore all of your available options, you should reach out to an app development partner. A partner can guide you through the development process with their industry experience and technical expertise. AJAX in PHP might be a bit of a misnomer, but these two tools are commonly used in tandem to create incredible web pages.