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Articles

PHP vs ASP

Originally published May 22, 2003

Note: This article is significantly out of date and no longer relevant. However, it is being preserved here for historical purposes.

There have always been innovative revolutions in the world of the Internet; they are in fact the foundations upon which it is built. Without this never-ending stream of creative energy, the online world as we know it today would never have been. The history of the web browser is a classic example of how innovation drives progress on the net; the very first browser, known as WorldWideWeb, was developed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee. It only took a couple of years to catch on, and in 1993, NCSA's Mosaic was released, which is still regarded today as the first true web browser. Mosaic remained the staple browser for a number of years, and was licensed to various companies, including Microsoft for use in Internet Explorer. After Mosaic, a number of other browsers were released, some of which remain in mainstream use (most notably Opera and Mozilla in 1994, followed by Internet Explorer in 1995) quickly dwarfing earlier browsers in their functionality.

While web browsers demonstrate only one facet of the innovative progress of the net, it is perhaps one of the most striking examples considering the explosive growth following the web's inception. Whereas early browsers were limited in their functionality, within five years they had grown to the point where they made the web a viable tool; providing a truely interactive experience to anyone with access to an Internet connection and a computer. This is truly where our debate comparing PHP to ASP begins, back in the dark ages of the Internet.

HTML, the fundamental building block of the net, remains largely unchanged since the first browsers. Back end programming, however, has been experiencing growing pains since CGI was introduced. Traditionally, web pages were given added functionality via CGI, programs typically written using traditional programming languages such as C or Pascal, or Unix shell scripts. One of these, known as Perl (originally developed in 1987) quickly became a favorite among web developers for it's easy integration into web pages. Perl is still in widespread use today, offering a powerful set of features and is easily extensible via a huge collection of modules available from CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network). Perl's main drawback lies in the fact that although it boasts a highly flexible and powerful language, it is fairly complex, usually proving unduly daunting for beginners; especially to those who have never programmed before. In addition, Perl is a CGI script, which has a marked abstraction from the tight integration of HTML and 'web-specific' languages such as ASP, ColdFusion or PHP - that is, it's very difficult to build dynamic websites using Perl.

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