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Of course, AJAX become a star, it's because of google.
So I don't think AJAX is a signal of unhealthy, just because some webmasters use AJAX to show off themselves only.
And I think AJAX is good! Very Good!
Probably 80% of what AJAX is being used for could be satisfied in a much more simple fashion using frames.
I think where we went wrong was the silly squabble over Iframes. Iframes (introduced by Microsoft) were not an "official" part of any web standard until HTML 4.0. For some reason, they are still thought-of as improper HTML. Iframes addressed most of the clunkiness issues with frames.
Unfortunately, Iframes are NOT an official part of XHTML! (Although browsers still support them.)
What we needed (and still need) is a more-flexible implementation of Iframe. It seems to me that <div> and <span> could meet that need nicely.
To the end-user it would offer the same experience, though, for those use cases which involve simply updating a block of text from the server when the user presses a button.