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PHP and today's generation of web technologies.

© January 2004 Crouse
Web Site: https://www.usalug.org

What's next in the field of web design? It's already here. Today's webmasters are deluged with available technologies to incorporate into their designs. The ability to learn everything is fast becoming an impossiblity. So your choice in design technologies becomes increasingly important if you don't want to be the last man standing and left behind when everyone else has moved on. But before we get to that, lets do a quick review of the previous generation of web design.

The first generation of design would have to be called the STATIC generation. In the static generation of web design, pages were mostly html pages that relied soley on static text and images to relay they information over the internet. The first generation of web pages lacked x and y coordinate positioning, and relied on hand coded tables for somewhat accurate placement of images and text. Simple, and straight to the point, webdesign was more like writing a book and publishing it online. Although there are still a few static sites out there, the more proffesional sites have of course kept up with technology, which brings us to this generation of webdesign.

The second generation of web design (the one we are in now), would be considered the ACTIVE generation. For quite awhile now the internet has been drifting towards interactive web designs which allow users a more personal and dynamic experience when visiting websites. No longer is a great website simply a bunch of static text and images. A great website is now one which allows, indeed, encourages user interaction. From simple guestbooks to advanced user forums and image galleries, user s are expecting to have more interactions when visiting websites. The jobs of the webmasters everywhere have just gotten more difficult. No longer does knowing HTML inside out make you a webmaster, although that does help a great deal!! Now, knowing how to use interactive technologies isn't just helpful, it's almost a requirement. Here are a few of the interactive technologies available for the webmasters of today.

Technologies on the client side :

1.Active X Controls.

Developed by Microsoft these are only fully functional on the Internet Explorer web browser . This eliminates them from being cross platform, and thus eliminates them from being a webmasters number one technology choice for the future. Disabling Active X Controls on the IE web browser is something many people do for security, as the platform has been used by many for unethical and harmful things.

2.Java Applets

Java Applets are programs that are written in the Java Language. They are self contained and are supported on cross platform web browsers. While not all browsers work with Java Applets, many do. These can be included in web pages in almost the same way images can.

3.Dhtml and Client-Side Scripting

This category covers an array of useful languages. DHTML, javascript, and vbscript. They all have in common the fact that all the code is transmitted with the original webpage and the web browser translates the code and creates pages that are much more dynamic than static html pages. Vbscript is only supported by Internet Explorer. That again makes for a bad choice for the web designer wanting to create cross platform web pages. With Linux and other operating systems gaining in popularity, it makes little sense to lock yourself into one platform.

Of all the client side options available javascript has proved to be the most popular and most widely used. So once your an expert with HTML, I recommend javascript for your next learning experience. Unless of course you prefer to just jump to the next level and skip the client side options altogether. That wouldn't neccesarily be an entirely bad idea in my opinion either.

Technologies on the server side:


This stands for Common Gateway Interface. It wasn't all that long ago that the only dynamic solution for webmasters was CGI. Almost every webserver in use today supports CGI in one form or another. The most widely used CGI language is Perl. Python, C, and C++ can also be used as CGI programming languages, but are not nearly as popular as Perl. The biggest disadvantage to CGI for the server side is in it's lack of scalability. Although mod_perl for Apache and Fast CGI attempt to help improve performance in this department, CGI is probably not the future of web design because of this very problem.


Another of Microsoft's attempt's to "improve" things. ASP is a proprietary scripting language. Performance is best on Microsoft's own servers of course, and the lack of widespread COM support has reduced the number of webmasters willing to bet the farm on another one of Microsoft's silver bullets.

3.JavaServer Pages and Java Servlets

Server side javascript is Netscapes answer to Microsoft's ASP technology. Since this technology is supported almost exclusively on the Netscape Enterprise Sever, the likelyhood that this will ever become a serious contender in the battle for the webmaster's attention is highly unlikely.


Perhaps the biggest diamond in the rough is PHP. Developed in 1994, PHP works very similar to the way that ASP works. However, quite unlike ASP, PHP is totally platform independent and there are versions for most operating systems and servers. The most helpful feature in gaining widespread acceptance is the fact that it's free and Open Source. PHP is definitely my choice for the future of web design for the forseeable future.

The benefits of using PHP server side proccessing include the following.

  1. Reduces network traffic.
  2. Avoids cross platform issues with operating systems and web browsers.
  3. Can sent data to the client that isn't on the client computer.
  4. Quicker loading time. After the server interprets all the php code, the resulting page is transmitted as HTML.
  5. Security is increased, since things can be coded into PHP that will never be viewed from the browser.

While Flash, Active X, and other proprietary elements will continue to creep in and entice webmasters, in the end, compatibility issues and price of development will dictate what eventually win out in the next generation of web design. However, for the forseeable future PHP, HTML, and databases are going to be in the future of interactive web design, and that's where I'm placing my bets. Open Source continues to play an important role in driving web technologies. Even though Microsoft would like to be the only player on the field, Open Source, with it's flexibility will almost certainly be the winner in the end. Betting the farm on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP) seems much wiser to me than the alternative (Microsoft, IIS, Asp) ... not to mention it's a much less expensive route to follow.

Original Article Posted : (link dead, sorry) https://www.usalug.org/
Written by Crouse ... UsaLug site administrator.

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