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JSP: Java on Your Server

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JSP stands for Java Server Pages. The idea of JSP is to allow Java code to be embedded in HTML – this is done uising XML tags.

JSP allows you to dynamically add content to your pages, and also offers the facility to send Java to the web browser easily.

The Lack of Functions

Most of the built-in JSP functions do nothing more than flow control: it barely offers any built-in functions at all. Instead, you have to define your own tags using tag libraries. This makes the language extremely extensible, but not much use if you just want to get started quickly and write a simple database-driven website.

The most significant reason to use JSP is that it gives you all the power of Java when it comes to adding things to your HTML pages. In big companies especially, these Java capabilities are very important. The flexibility of the language is also very useful for larger projects: in some ways, JSP is more like a ‘build your own programming language kit’ than it is a language in itself.

Separating the Application Logic

The real point of JSP is to separate out your application’s logic (the part that does things) from its presentation (the HTML). JSP is, basically, a very minimal language intended to do little more than help turn the output of a Java application into a web page. This has the advantage of letting you write an entirely new website using your existing application as the backend – but it has the disadvantage that it can be difficult to add any new functions to the site unless you know what you’re doing in Java.

Unfortunately, the downside of doing things this way is that, if you’re not strict about it, HTML code will have a tendency to start creeping into the output of the backend Java application. If that happens, it will make it difficult to rewrite your JSPs without ending up with broken web pages.

Is Java a Good Idea?

One of the advantages of JSP is that it can easily take Java applets and throw them onto the web. When it comes down to it, though, Java isn’t usually a good idea. Why? Well, it takes a long time to load, it’s slow when it does load, and it doesn’t tend to do anything that couldn’t have been done better in Flash or even in plain old HTML. On the web, Java has come to be considered harmful.

On the server, though, Java is a fine idea, at least if you’re good enough to program in it. There are simpler languages out there, but Java is cross-platform, standardised and does pretty much everything you could want it to. You will, though, need a pretty powerful server to use Java for any significant number of requests.

JSP or ASP?

JSP is obviously named to point out the fact that it is an alternative to Microsoft’s ASP. So why would you use one instead of the other. Well, while ASP has the simplicity of Visual Basic on its side, JSP has the power of Java, and, more importantly, its cross-platform capabilities. While ASP will tie you down to a Microsoft platform, JSP can be used on any operating system capable of running Java – and that’s just about all of them.

JSP or ColdFusion?

What JSP and ColdFusion have in common is that they can both interact with Java – but which is better? For most projects, the answer is ColdFusion: if you’re building something relatively small (meaning non-enterprise), ColdFusion’s built-in functions should be sufficient and the code shouldn’t be able to grow so large as to be unmanageable.

Should JSP Stay in the Enterprise?

People with small website usually fall into one of two camps: the vendor-devoted people who are quite happy to run their whole system on Microsoft or Macromedia products because it saves them time, and the open source devotees who use languages like PHP because it saves them money and they support the principles involved. Among these two camps, there isn’t really much room for JSP, and in most cases, there shouldn’t be. Unless you’re building a project that’s larger than the average, or you’ve already got a Java application you want to write a web interface for, you’ll probably be better off giving JSP a miss.

Information supplied and written by Lee Asher of Eclipse Domain Services

Domain Names, Hosting, Traffic and Email Solutions.

JSP: Java on Your Server
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