In the early days of web page creation, Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML) became the standard language of the World Wide Web (WWW). The language was simple to learn, mostly linear in execution, and efficient for delivery over dial-up connections used to access the Internet. As time marched on, HTML began to show its age as more and more content needed to be delivered dynamically rather than statically.
The rise of broadband Internet opened up the possibility of new technologies of which web page creators could take advantage. Streaming video, downloadable music files, multi-player gaming, and other advances made static web pages a stagnating force. To break free of static pages, Microsoft Corporation developed ASP for use with its Internet Information Services (IIS) technology. Since Windows 2000 server, it has been a standard component with subsequent versions of IIS.
A Brief Overview of Active Server Pages (ASP)
ASP takes full advantage of Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript), a scripting language compatible with HTML. Microsoft developed VBScript which is based on the Visual Basic and Visual Basic for Applications programming languages. VBScript allows web programmers to create snippets of code for execution at run time (when a visitor requests that a web page display in his/her browser). Based on Visual Basic, VBScript is easy to learn in comparison to other programming languages such as C++ or PERL.
ASP takes full advantage of VBScript. Its most powerful feature is the ability to query databases such as Microsoft Access. What makes ASP so powerful is that it is generally easy to learn and it allows the amateur and professional web site creator deliver dynamic content demanded by visitors.
ASP uses a file extension different from HTML. Whereas HTML files have either an *.htm or *html, ASP pages use *.asp to point out to the server that the page potentially contains scripts. The code embedded in an ASP web page is executed on the server and sent to the visitor of a web page. This makes delivery of web pages faster because the code is executed before it is sent. The web browser used by the visitor does not need to make any calculations or execute any scripts.
Useful Functions Built into Active Server Pages (ASP)
It is beyond the scope of this document to discuss everything ASP can do. However, there are two examples that illustrate just how powerful ASP can be. Many websites sell advertising space to generate revenue. ASP has a built in ad rotator that allows for a different ad to display each time an ASP page is loaded. This makes it simple for a web page creator to incorporate ads without having to do all of the programming
Another built in feature of ASP is the content rotator. Similar to the Ad Rotator, it allows web creators to keep web page views fresh by displaying different content each time a visitor requests an ASP page. This type of functionality was absent from HTML where pages sat static until changed by the creator.
The Future of Active Server Pages (ASP)
ASP is also known today as Classic ASP because technically it has already been succeeded by a newer version. ASP.NET is the newest version of the ASP family taking full advantage of several programming language not just VBScript. ASP.NET uses the Common Language Runtime (CLR) which allows web page creators to program pages using any of the .NET family of programming languages. These include Visual Basic and Visual C++, two of the most popular Windows family of programming languages from Microsoft.
Regardless of the superiority of ASP.NET, ASP remain as the choice for amateur web page creators. While ASP lacks in flexibility and power, its ease of use make it a perfect choice for simple dynamic content. In fact, some large websites built on ASP have not yet switched to ASP.NET. This is probably due to ASP meeting the needs of the site with no need to spend large amounts of money to convert to the technically superior standard.
Although many books have been written about the subject, the web remains a free resource to learn how to program ASP. W3Schools.com is a free resource that also includes information on complementary technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and the Extensible Markup Language (XML). In addition, Microsoft publishes a variety of books on the subject of ASP, ASP.NET, and its family of programming languages.
Although ASP have already been succeeded by the next generations of Active Server Pages, they remain as a tool of the amateur and professional alike. ASP puts the power of dynamic web pages into the hands of the little guy trying to compete with larger, well-established web sites. Simple to learn, simple to execute, and available on any Microsoft-hosted server, ASP is worth leaning and deploying as a simple yet powerful web page platform.