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What is ASP?

Active Server Pages, or ASP, is a server-side scripting engine that allows web site developers to add interactive functions to web pages. Such dynamically-generated pages use input from the user to determine how a web page is presented. An example of its use would be to enable a web site visitor to log into a message board, or to give access to a secure database. When ASP is used within a page, then the usual “.html” suffix is replaced with “.asp”.

ASP was introduced by Microsoft as an add-on to Internet Information Services in 1996. It has undergone several revisions since then, with the biggest change occurring in 2002 with the introduction of ASP.NET, originally called ASP+. In earlier versions all scripts had to be placed inside HTML files; however the introduction of ASP.NET introduced full support for languages such as Visual Basic.NET. However, in-page scripting is still supported.

In order to run ASP scripts you will need to install an ASP server, normally either Internet Information Services or Personal Web Server, both from Microsoft. For non-Microsoft users there are some third-party implementations available that will allow users to run ASP scripts on a Unix or Linux server. Examples are ChiliASP or InstantASP.

Scripts used for ASP content are normally written in VBScript but it is possible to use other languages instead. Jscript is another Microsoft product that can be used and PerlScript is one example of a third-party language often used. There are several web sites that have collections of scripts available for use, often at no charge. Some examples are HotScripts.com or Scripts.com but a simple Google search will bring up many more. If you prefer to write your own scripts then this is fairly straightforward for a person with some programming experience. There are also many tutorials available on the Internet for those less experienced.

As mentioned above, ASP is a Microsoft product, although there are ways of running ASP on other operating systems. Having said this, you will get the best results when ASP is running in the environment for which it was created. This being so, it may be better to choose a web host that offers Microsoft-based servers. Don’t forget that this may also have other implications for your web site, such as your choice of database. You will need to check carefully to make sure that the web hosting company can provide full support for your database as well as ASP.

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