Active server pages (ASP) are the result of a Microsoft technology that runs server-side scripts to create dynamic Web pages for visitors. Active server pages are so-named because the server runs active scripts to turn out pages that are unique in content, depending on a visitor's request or input. By contrast, standard Web pages are static, meaning they do not change until the Webmaster updates them. A visitor's Web browser sends a request to a website for a page, and the domain's server receives the request and sends the page back. Visitor "A" sees the same exact page as visitor "B," and so on.
Active server pages employ a different scheme. Visitor "A" and "B" might see different content, even though they have requested the same Web page. This is made possible by an extra step in the server's processing of the page request. Instead of just sending the page, the server first executes any ASP scripts that are embedded in the HTML coding of the page. The ASP scripts serve to customize the page for the visitor.
For example, assume "Mr. wiseGEEK" has visited a site before and given his name, perhaps by registering. Using active server pages, the website might welcome him by displaying the following message: "Good morning Mr. wiseGEEK! It's 10:32am on a great Tuesday!" It might also take him to a specific page within the site. On the other hand, a new visitor to the site might be greeted with the time and an invitation to register. This might be at an entry page with content geared specifically towards selling the site's services. In other words, active server pages can personalize Web pages on the fly.
Active server pages can also provide functionality for Intranets and access to corporate databases or other resources. Flexibility and purpose is limited only by creativity, as ASP can support virtually any scripting language, including integrated support for VBScript and JScript.
ASP scripts are easily added into existing HTML pages. While programmers already familiar with scripting languages can quickly get the hang of incorporating active server pages into a web site, newcomers will also find it quite easy. Assuming some HTML familiarity, ASP scripts are not such a tough jump. Many complete scripts are freely available online, and can be easily customized with a text editor.
If interested in learning more about active server pages, you can find many web sites that provide tutoring, as well as several books. Active server pages can give your personal site or business domain true functionality that can make the difference between a good site and a great asset.