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An introduction to e-commerce and distributed applications
An introduction to e-commerce and distributed applications

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4.1.3 No dynamic web pages

Another example of a problem with web servers which arises from their original functionality is the fact that web pages were designed to be static: they were files which were stored on a computer and delivered in their stored form to anyone using a browser to access them. Many e-commerce and e-business applications require something much more dynamic, for example there are a number of financial service sites on the web which provide customers with up-to-date stock and share prices. These prices are stored on web pages and need to change very frequently – often every few seconds. There have been a number of add-on technologies that have been developed in order to cope with this problem.

Saloman Smith Barney and paying for education

Saloman Smith Barney is one of the largest and innovative financial companies in the United States. Its website is an excellent example of a feature-packed site. One part of the site which requires dynamic pages allows the visitor to plan the funding of their son or daughter's education; it prompts the visitor with a number of financial questions and constructs web pages which provide details of the investment needed to pay college fees.

One early solution is something known as a Server Side Include in which parts of a web page are marked as being dynamic and, prior to their being sent to the browser, they are updated with data that has changed. Servlets are also used to produce dynamic pages, for example they can be programmed to return specific web pages to a browser containing content loaded in from a database. Another technology which has become very prominent over the last two years is known generically as dynamic pages. This is a more fiexible version of Server Side Includes which allows the Java programmer to insert data into a web page at specified points on a real-time basis. There is also a Microsoft implementation of dynamic pages known as active server pages. There are a number of other technologies such as mod_perl and php.