REVIEW - Scripting Languages - Automating the Web


Scripting Languages - Automating the Web






O'Reilly ()




Joe McCool


October 1998



This is very much an overview. If your objective is to learn Web scripting languages, then this book is not for you. If however, you are concerned with choosing a language, or if you want help to guess who will win the commercial battles out there, then that is another matter. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is led by Tim Berners-Lee, CERN's original visionary for the Web. W3C spearheads standards research and development for the Web and this is their Spring 1997 Journal. The date is important, because the content is probably already out of date. Those who like their information slightly warmer are referred to

Possibly of historical interest to readers of these columns is the interview with Larry Wall (original author) and Tom Christiansen on Perl. They argue that Perl is 'the language for getting the job done', as against Java where reliability is deemed an issue. A technical paper by Lincoln Stein is concerned with exploring CGI with, a Perl module. The vast majority of Web pages still use the old workhorse: Common Gateway Interface, hence the relevance of Perl. An attractive feature of this paper (and some of the others) is that he features GUI screen dumps of his code's effect, but again this is merely an overview or introduction.

Perl and CGI are featured again in another paper by Lazar and Holfelder, where they compare them to JavaScript and WebScript, for dynamically displaying database information. Their approach is effective; implementing one program using the three different technologies and comparing the results in terms of portability, cost and ease of maintenance.

Clinton Wong also explores Perl and the LWP library (again this might appeal to C++ programmers). JavaScript (not to be confused with creating Java applets) is considered by Nick Heinle (author of a forthcoming O'Reilly book on the subject), where he argues that static HTML is just not good enough.

At the end of this book I was little the wiser. I am still unsure about what direction to go on Web technology. My inkling is towards conservatism and raw HTML processing with Perl or such like.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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