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Writing Apache Modules with Perl and C
By:   Lincoln Stein and Doug MacEachern
Published:   O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.  - March 1999

Copyright 1999 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.


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Chapter 1 - Server-Side Programming with Apache

In this section...

Web Programming Then and Now
The Apache Project
The Apache C and Perl APIs
Ideas and Success Stories


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In This Chapter

Before the World Wide Web appeared, client/server network programming was a drag. Application developers had to develop the communications protocol, write the low-level network code to reliably transmit and receive messages, create a user interface at the client side of the connection, and write a server to listen for incoming requests, service them properly, and transmit the results back to the client. Even simple client/server applications were many thousand lines of code, the development pace was slow, and programmers worked in C.

When the web appeared in the early '90s, all that changed. The web provided a simple but versatile communications protocol standard, a universal network client, and a set of reliable and well-written network servers. In addition, the early servers provided developers with a server extension protocol called the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). Using CGI, a programmer could get a simple client/server application up and running in 10 lines of code instead of thousands. Instead of being limited to C or another "systems language," CGI allowed programmers to use whatever development environment they felt comfortable with, whether that be the command shell, Perl, Python, REXX, Visual Basic, or a traditional compiled language. Suddenly client/server programming was transformed from a chore into a breeze. The number of client/server applications increased 100-fold over a period of months, and a new breed of software developer, the "web programmer," appeared.

The face of network application development continues its rapid pace of change. Open the pages of a web developer's magazine today and you'll be greeted by a bewildering array of competing technologies. You can develop applications using server-side include technologies such as PHP or Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP). You can create client-side applications with Java, JavaScript, or Dynamic HTML (DHTML). You can serve pages directly out of databases with products like the Oracle web server or Lotus Domino. You can write high-performance server-side applications using a proprietary server application programming interface (API). Or you can combine server- and client-side programming with integrated development environments like Netscape's LiveWire or NeXT's WebObjects. CGI scripting is still around too, but enhancements like FastCGI and ActiveState's Perl ISAPI are there to improve script performance.

All these choices can be overwhelming, and it isn't always clear which development system offers the best tradeoff between power, performance, compatibility, and longevity. This chapter puts a historical perspective on web application development and shows you how and where the Apache C and Perl APIs fit into the picture.

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Copyright 1999 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.