HTML and CSS Reference
Any website that you find that does more than just publish plain old documents is run-
ning some kind of script or program on the server. A number of popular scripting plat-
forms are available for writing web applications. Which one is available for your use
depends in part on which web server you're using. PHP is probably the most popular
choice. It's easy to get started with and runs on most servers. Other popular choices
include Microsoft .NET, which runs on Windows, or Java Server Pages (JSP), which can
run on most servers. Newer choices include Ruby on Rails and Django, both of which
are frameworks that can be used to build web applications.
Server-Side File Processing
Some servers can process files before they send them along to the browsers. On a simple
level, there are server-side includes, which can insert a date or a chunk of boilerplate text
into each page, or run a program. Also, you can use server-side processing in much more
sophisticated ways to modify files on-the-fly for different browsers or to execute small
bits of code embedded in your pages.
Authentication and Security
Password protection is provided out-of-the-box by most web servers. Using authentica-
tion, you can create users and assign passwords to them, and you can restrict access to
certain files and directories. You can also restrict access to files or to an entire site based
on site names or IP addresses. For example, you can prevent anyone outside your com-
pany from viewing files that are intended for employees. It's common for people to build
custom authentication systems using server-side scripts, too.
For security, some servers also provide a mechanism for encrypted connections and
transactions using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. SSL allows the browser to
authenticate the server, proving that the server is who it says it is, and an encrypted con-
nection between the browser and the server so that sensitive information between the two
cannot be understood if it is intercepted.
Before you can put your site on the Web, you must find a web server. How easy this is
depends on how you get your access to the Internet.
Using a Web Server Provided by Your School or Work
If you get your Internet connection through school or work, that organization might
allow you to publish web pages on its own web server. Given that these organizations
usually have fast connections to the Internet and people to administer the site for you,
this situation is ideal.