Microsoft web technology supports more than 25 languages
What is it?
Active Server Pages (ASP) is Microsoft's technology for building interactive web pages, using techniques similar to HTML authoring. It has been described as "the tool that will allow you to build an almost infinite number of web pages with only a few files". It is intended to be usable by relative beginners, but has the potential to be used for advanced developments by professionals.
ASP.net is still best supported by Visual Studio .net, but the days when it was confined to JScript and VBScript are long gone, since "classic" ASP was replaced by ASP.net. Microsoft said it now supports more than 25 languages. Microsoft has also set up the Web Matrix for ASP.net, its first venture into Linux-like community-support, development and maintenance
Where did it originate?
ASP was introduced with Internet Information Server (IIS) version 3. Web Matrix began life as Web Studio in 2000, and was written using C#, Windows Forms and the .net Framework.
What's it for?
Building and deploying applications and pages with the minimum of effort and error, using what Microsoft calls "an HTML-like style of declarative programming". ASP.net enables interactive web pages to be built using just a text editor, but the tools and techniques available are a great deal richer with Visual Studio .net, including code support, integrated debugging and easier deployment. ASP.net mobile controls automatically generate the appropriate code for phones and PDAs. Web Matrix has built-in support for Microsoft's Access and SQL Server databases, and for XML web services.
What makes it special?
According to Microsoft, being compiled, ASP.net is up to five times faster than "classic" ASP. The much wider range of supported languages means developers can use it with the skills they already have, rather than learning VB.net or C#. Some language support is built in, others require additional tool support. Applications can be partitioned across several languages.
How difficult is it to master?
The Microsoft ASP.net Web Matrix Project, described as a "free, easy to use, lightweight community supported web development tool for quickly building ASP.net web applications" will get users going. This includes a Wysiwyg designer and the ability to drag-and-drop ASP.net server controls. However, you will need to know VB, C# or J# to use it.
Microsoft also offers a selection of ASP.net 2.0 starter kits for Visual Web Developer, which use sample applications - personal web pages, club pages and simple business applications - to teach the basics.
Where is it used?
From local web design services to advanced finance applications such as hedge funds. It is no longer restricted to Microsoft-only installations, with ports to other web servers and operating systems.
What systems does it run on?
ASP.net is supported on current versions of Windows, requiring IIS to be installed. But there is also an ASP port for Apache. Novell and others are working on ports of ASP.net or the whole .net Framework to Linux, and the former Chilisoft product is now marketed by Sun as Java System Active Server Pages. Application-building tools such as Delphi and Dreamweaver support or integrate with ASP, and ASP pages work in all browsers.
Rates of pay
ASP developers with Visual Basic .net and SQL Server skills can earn between £30,000 and £35,000.
This was first published in June 2005