ASP stands for Active Server Pages; it is a specific programming technology that Microsoft originally introduced for creating customized dynamic websites. If versatility, functionality, and user interactivity are important for your website, then ASP scripts may be just the tools you need. To install and utilize ASP scripts on your website, however, your site must be hosted with ASP hosting.
Static websites merely present information on a page, their greatest interactivity being links to click through to other pages. Dynamic websites, on the other hand, offer a rich, interactive user experience, with features that allow and encourage the user to engage with the site and participate in their experience of it beyond merely reading words on a page. Quite often, such dynamic web pages are Active Server Pages.
What Are Active Server Pages
Active Server Pages (ASP) is an alternative method of coding websites to traditional HTML. ASP scripts utilize a method called "server-side scripting" to produce more creative and interactive web pages than standard HTML is capable of.
What kind of pages?
In-site search engines
How they do this is by calling up what are called ActiveX components that are in turn capable of performing an array of tasks that range from performing complex calculations to connecting with databases (like MySQL or MS SQL).
That said, one of the other advantages of Active Server Pages is that they can also include HTML tags, text, and other commands.
The Ultimate WYSIWYG
That's: "What You See Is What You Get", if you didn't know, and it's a high commodity in web design. What's more, it can be far more difficult than you may think to get a website to appear as it does on your (the designer's) computer on your end users' computers, whatever browsers they're using.
Web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox) all use slightly differently programming to read and display your web pages to the people who call them up. That means the same website can appear differently on different web browsers. When this occurs, some end users may encounter a version of your website that's not very usable at all. Columns can be in disarray, links can be deactivated, tables can appear distorted or go missing altogether.
One of the benefits of ASP hosting is that ASP scripts are designed to appear identically on all web browsers. So your visitors can see the site you've designed as you see it. This is because, when a web browser requests a web page that has a .asp extension instead of .htm or .html, the ASP hosting company's server knows to read all the ASP scripts first before initiating any HTML code that the web page file may also contain; by the time that file reaches the user's browser, it appears entirely in HTML, thereby producing that all-too evasive consistency in look and feel that is the goal of every web designer.
Why ASP Hosting Is Important
If you want to use ASP scripts on your web pages, you must use ASP website hosting. And do not assume that just because a web host offers you the use of CGI scripts and Pearl scripts on the sites it serves that it supports ASP scripts as well, because it very well may not. Assume, in fact, that if it doesn't say "ASP hosting" or "supports ASP scripts" in the hosting plan description, then it probably doesn't. If you can't find that information in the basic plan description, you may find it in the host's FAQ. If not there, you could call and ask, but at this point you may be better off finding a company that seeks the ASP website hosting customer.
Because ASP was invented by Microsoft, it works best on Windows computers, particularly those with the latest version of the Windows operating system installed. If you think you'll be designing and/or maintaining your website on a Windows machine using a Windows OS (as opposed to, say, Linux), then ASP could be extremely useful to you. So can Windows hosting, which will almost invariably support ASP intrinsically (though, again, don't assume).
You don't need to use a Windows computer, however, to design your site using ASP scripts, nor do you need hosting on a Windows server to host a site using ASP. You do, however, need the proper ASP support. Some companies now sell software products (like Microsystems' Chili!Soft ASP) that let you run ASP scripts on non-Windows web servers, like Secure Server, Red Hat, and Apache. There are also two web server apps, also put out by Microsoft, that will do the trick: IIS (Internet Information Services) and PWS (Personal Web Server).
Using ASP: Classic ASP vs. ASP.NET
Learning to code with ASP is easy. If you already know how to write HTML code, then you're most of the way there. But beyond that, the best ASP hosting companies now offer so many pre-coded ASP tools for creative and interactive website features that you may never need to know the first thing about ASP coding in order to avail yourself fully of its gifts.
If, however, coding is your game, then you may be interested in knowing that "Classic ASP" as it’s known permits the use of several popular programming languages besides its also-popular default language, VBScript; that includes JScript, which you may recognize as ECMAScript implemented Microsoft-style.
Alternatively to so-called Classic ASP, you may also choose ASP.NET, a version of Active Server Pages based on Microsoft's .NET Framework. Rather than using the extension ".asp", ASP.NET files use the extension ".aspx". As the newer version intended to be a more robust replacement to Classic ASP, ASP.NET may still utilize some Classic ASP scripts, but you cannot use ASP.NET scripts on Classic ASP pages. All this is to say that if there's a specific ASP-based language you're planning on using, make sure the ASP hosting company you choose supports Classic ASP or ASP.NET, accordingly.
But again, what makes ASP hosting so easy is that you don't need any scripting knowledge to make great use of it. You can create all the dynamic content for your web pages that you want in the same text editor you already use for your basic HTML web page design.
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