Adaptivepath's article about Ajax has been flying through the blogosphere like wildfire over the past couple of weeks. I'm not linking to it here because it's #2 when searching for “Ajax” on Google.
It essentially calls for a series of small interactions with a web server that happen seemlessly while the user is working with the page. This minimizes the the roundtrip problems that normally happen when working with large forms and large datasets. It also minimizes the waiting time for the end user. The reason this concept has gotten so many electrons lately is because of the elegant implementation by Google for Gmail, Google Suggest, and Google Maps – each of which is impressive in its own right.
Now the tools are beginning to reach their full potential. I believe the reason this is taking off is because the trail has been blazed… just like the first time a 4-minute mile was run. Users have seen how fast and smooth an interface can work and soon they'll be demanding it in all of their web applications. Right now, I'd wager that to get VC money, you'll have to do it. Within a year, most webapps will have to do it just to keep pace. Two years from now, no one will even think about building an application without it.
Could this place have been reached a year ago? Definitely, Gmail is nearly a year old.
Did it take Adaptive Path giving it a name? Of course not.