Google's GMail service does it because it integrates Google Talk -- and Etherpad (now typewith.me) made famous the system which is used by, for example, Google Wave. All such systems update the page the user is working on effectively instantly when other users make changes to the page. It's easy to tell the server that a change has happened when it has happened, but it's more difficult to get clients to update themselves.
How does this kind of realtime editing work? Does it simply have the client ping the server tens of times per second for updates?
You can use Comet.
With Ajax, web applications can retrieve data from the server asynchronously in the background without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page. The use of Ajax techniques has led to an increase in interactive or dynamic interfaces on web pages. Data is usually retrieved using the XMLHttpRequest object. Despite the name, the use of XML is not actually required, nor do the requests need to be asynchronous.
I suggest using AJAX & jQuery for Asynchronous JS
In fact, google voice and video uses it for these systems.
About AJAX, i think it's a communication channel, not a platform or a protocol for multiple person exchange. You could also answer
"Use xml over http!" and still be at the same point :)
AFAIK, they use some form of AJAX. However, I would recommend you use the AJAX libraries via jQuery. AJAX is simplified a lot if you use jQuery to do it.
Hope this helps!
As everyone says.. AJAX.
The client keeps on asking the server, after say 30 secs if there is anything new for it to do. Also, you can set the timeout value on an ajax request. keep the time out a bit high.. and the server replies whenever there is something new.
There is no way that the server can other wise ask the client to load some data.
If you are thinking of implementing something on the same lines, look up strophe.js which is an XMPP js-library
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