PHP vs ASP
Note: This article is significantly out of date and no longer relevant. However, it is being preserved here for historical purposes.
Perl remained the mainstream solution to web backend programming for several years until 1996, when Microsoft introduced a product known as Denali, which used the VBScript language in an attempt to attract disenchanted web developers yearning for a simpler alternative to Perl and C. In late 1996, Microsoft renamed Denali as ASP 3.0 and released it to the public bundled into IIS at no charge. The concept caught on, and ASP quickly grew to become one of the most popular web development languages, partly due to the Microsoft marketing machine, and also due to the timely release of a much desired concept; inline code, coupled with a simpler language, provided the right conditions for a multitude of up-and-coming web developers to jump on the bandwagon.
1996 proved a pivotal year for back-end web development as a new web language called PHP was gaining popularity. PHP is an recursive acronym for PHP Hypertext Processor, originally started in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf as a Perl wrapper to simplfy his back-end programming. By the end of 1996, PHP was in use by 15,000 pages. In 1997 PHP3 - the first widely-used version of PHP - was released, growing explosively to being used on over one million sites by the time PHP 4 was released in April, 2000. PHP's rapid growth signifies a marked change in the direction of web development, a paradigm shift from awkward and time-consuming back ends of Perl through kludgy ASP and now to streamlined PHP. PHP draws it's strengths from C and from Perl; the language is simple and easy to understand. PHP's simple structure allows beginners to easily pick up the language while advanced tasks, such as file uploads, graphics manipulation and database connectivity are easily within reach of the beginner. PHP's vast power and unsurpassed functionality is derived from the huge storehouse of built-in extensions that are bundled with each PHP installation, offering far more functionality than could ever be desired by the most wanting developer.
The web has grown significantly since it's inception, and user's expectations of a website have grown substantially as well. Most of ASP's functionality now pales in stark contrast to PHP's gleaming capabilities, but still one must consider the multitude of developers throughout the late 90's who studied and learned ASP, went to school and even got jobs developing ASP websites. Most of these developers were fresh out of school, having learned (what they thought) was the next best thing, and after the Internet boom died away, moved into different fields or different industries altogether. But in their wake remains a large number of websites developed using this outdated language, many of which work just fine in their current incarnation and have been for some time. Also remaining are a significant number of diehard ASP developers supporting these pages and even building new ones using this outmoded technology.