In the SSL/CW list of top IT skills, ASP is number 16.
What is it?
Active Server Pages is a programming framework for building interactive server-based web applications. What Microsoft now calls Classic ASP was pretty much tied to its own platforms, languages (Visual Basic and Java) and tools.
ASP.net is much more language- and toolkit-independent, although it is probably still best supported by Visual Studio and integrated with other .net technologies.
Where did it originate?
Microsoft introduced ASP with Internet Information Server version 3.
What is it for?
ASP allows applications and web pages to be built and deployed with the minimum of coding effort. It competes with Java Server Pages and scripting languages such as Perl, Python and PHP.
ASP uses what Microsoft calls "an HTML-like style of declarative programming". With the new ASP.net Mobile Controls, it can automatically generate Wap/WML, HTML or iMode as required to reach devices such as personal digital assistants and mobile phones.
What makes it special?
ASP.net is a considerable improvement on its predecessor. ASP.net is compiled, whereas Classic ASP was interpreted. Microsoft has claimed an increase in page throughput of three to five times.
Compiling is automatic: ASP.net will automatically and dynamically detect any changes, compile the files if needed and store the compiled results for re-use in subsequent requests. Applications can be updated without restarting the web server.
It supports 25 languages. Some require additional tool support but others, such as VB.net, C# and JScript.net, are built-in. An application can be partitioned across several languages and it can be used with any text editor.
ASP.net and Classic ASP can run side-by-side on an IIS server. It is also said to be backward-compatible with Com business components, as well as supporting XML web services.
How difficult is it to master?
You can build simple applications with a working knowledge of HTML and the programming knowledge of your choice - provided it is supported on .net. Those familiar with Visual Studio should have no problems.
Access to the .net framework means a lot of functionality can be slotted in with a few lines of code. ASP.net can also be used to build more complex applications, making use of the team support features in Visual Studio.net, including Unified Modelling Language support.
Where is it used?
ASP is no longer confined to Microsoft installations, being widely supported by other suppliers.
What systems does it run on?
Windows 2000, XP and IIS. There are also third-party adaptations for Unix, Linux and other web servers such as Apache and, most importantly, Chili Soft (now owned by Sun).
ASP.net pages work in most browsers, including Netscape, Opera, AOL and Internet Explorer.
What is coming up?
A new version of the open source-style community-supported development tool, ASP.net Web Matrix, is available to download at www.asp.net.
Not many people know that...
ASP also stands for the Association of Shareware Professionals.
ASP training is available from Microsoft and its certified training partners. Free courseware is available on the internet, including the ASP.net quick start tutorial from Microsoft. There are also plenty of independent sites and user groups offering tips and tutorials.
Rates of pay
Salaries start at about £25,000 for developers, rising to more than £40,000 for senior developers and team leaders. VB.net and XML experience is also typically needed, along with C#. With strong SQL Server skills, your earning potential would be greater still.