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Chapter 1. Types of Web Pages

While I was in college, sometime during the Pliocene, I took a science fiction class. The interesting thing about this class is that one student didn't realize until midterms that it wasn't a physiology class. I bring this up only because if you've picked up this book expecting Corinthian helmets and hoplites, which, incidentally, have one-third less fat than regular hops (useful information for Hydras on a diet), this is the wrong book.

According to legend, the Web was originally created by Tim Berners-Lee to distribute documents of a technical nature. Think of it as the latetwentieth-century version of leaving a note on the refrigerator describing how to preheat the oven, put the casserole in, make a salad, and serve it after 1 hour. As you can well imagine, posting this kind of information on a computer network has a much farther reach than posting it on a single refrigerator.

The existence of the World Wide Web hit all of us suddenly, like a summer thunderstorm, from clear skies to cracks of lightning in what felt like 15 minutes. All of a sudden all the friends and relatives who thought I was a little strange for having a computer were calling Gateway and Dell or were in a store getting a Toshiba or Compaq. It was as if they were all suddenly afflicted with some illness that made them say words like bits, bytes, and baud. Instead of strutting around comparing the size of their sailboats, they were all strutting comparing the size of their hard disks.

In just over a decade of existence, the World Wide Web has transformed dramatically from its humble beginnings on a single server stuck on a desk in an out-of-the-way office. In the first few years, the growth of the World Wide Web resembled Fibonacci numbers. If you're unfamiliar with Fibonacci numbers, they are a mathematical representation of the increase in the numbers of immortal bunnies in a garden with no predators. Assume an infinite supply of carrots and, well, you get the ideait was that kind of growth. Unfortunately, growth at that rate cannot be maintained forever; eventually, that many bunnies are bound to attract something with a taste for hasenpfeffer.

My opinion of this situation is that, contrary to popular belief, the end of growth in leaps and bounds is not the beginning of the end; it is merely the end of the beginning. Change is good, change is inevitable, and change rarely comes without pain.

Speaking of change, Ajax is a bit of a change from the earlier types of web pages, be they static HTML or Dynamic HTML/DHTML. The interesting thing is that all types of web pages rely upon essentially the same ingredients: HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and sometimes XML. In this chapter, I take our discussion a little beyond those simple ingredients, though, to consider the only two additional factors that can affect the end result: the browser and the web server.


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