Web - Programming Languages and Functions

The use of existing and new programming languages have extended the capabilities of the Web. What follows is a basic guide to a group of the more common languages and functions in use on the Web today.

CGI, Active Server Pages: CGI (Common Gateway Interface) refers to a specification by which programs can communicate with a Web server. A CGI program, or script, is any program designed to accept and return data that conforms to the CGI specification. The program can be written in any programming language, including C, Perl, and Visual Basic Script. A common use for a CGI script is to process a form on a Web page. For example, you might fill out a form to order a book at Amazon. The script processes your information and sends it to Amazon to process your order.

Another type of dynamically generated Web page is called Active Server Pages (ASP). Developed by Microsoft, ASP is a programming environment that processes scripts on the Web server. The scripts run on the server, rather than on the Web browser, to generate the HTML pages sent to browsers. Visual Basic and JScript (a subset of JavaScript) are often used for the scripting. ASPs end in the file extension .asp or .aspx.

Java/Java Applets: Java Java is an object-oriented programming language similar to C++. Developed by Sun Microsystems, the aim of Java is to create programs that will be platform independent. The Java motto is, "Write once, run anywhere." A perfect Java program should work equally well on a PC, Macintosh, Unix, and so on, without any additional programming. This goal has yet to be realized. Java can be used to write applications for both Web and non-Web use.

Web-based Java applications are usually in the form of Java applets. These are small Java programs called from an HTML page that can be downloaded from a Web server and run on a Java-compatible Web browser. A few examples include live newsfeeds, moving images with sound, calculators, charts and spreadsheets, and interactive visual displays. Java applets can tend to load slowly, but programming improvements should lead to a shortened loading time.

JavaScript/JScript: JavaScript is a programming language created by Netscape Communications. Small programs written in this language are embedded within an HTML page, or called externally from the page, to enhance the page's the functionality. Examples of JavaScript include moving tickers, drop-down menus, real-time calendars and clocks, and mouse-over interactions. JScript is a similar language developed by Microsoft and works with the company's Internet Explorer browser.

XML: XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is a mark-up language that enables Web designers to create their own customized tags to provide functionality not available with HTML alone. XML is a language of data structure and exchange, and allows developers to separate form from content. With XML, the same content can be formatted for multiple applications. In May 1999, the W3 Consortium announced that HTML 4.0 has been recast as an XML application called XHTML. This move is slowing having an impact on the future of both XML and HTML.

Ajax: Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. This langauge creates interactive Web applications. Its premise is that it sends data to the browser behind the scenes, so that when it is time to view the information, it is already "there." Google Maps is an example of an Ajax-enabled application. Another is SurfWax LookAhead, an RSS search tool that retrieves feeds as you type your query.

Real-Time Communication

Text, audio and video communication can occur in real time on the Web. This capability allows people to conference and collaborate in real time. In general, the faster the Internet connection, the more successful the experience.

At its simplest, chat programs allow multiple users to type to each other in real time. Internet Relay Chat and America Online's Instant Messenger are prime examples of this type of program. The development of a messenging protocols is underway. Such a protocol would allow for the expansion of this capability throughout the Internet.

More enhanced real-time communication offers an audio and/or video component. CU-See Me is a sotware programs of this type. Even more elaborate are programs that allow for true real-time collaboration. Microsoft's NetMeeting and Netscape's Conference (available with Communicator) are good examples of this.

Featured collaboration tools include:

  • audio: conduct a telephone conversation on the Web
  • video: view your audience
  • file transfer: send files back and forth among participants
  • chat: type in real time
  • whiteboard: draw, mark up, and save images on a shared window or board
  • document/application sharing: view and use a program on another's desktop machine
  • collaborative Web browsing: visit Web pages together

Currently no standard exists that will work among all conferencing programs.

Posted bySumedh at 11:07 PM  

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