Server-side scripting

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Most websites nowadays use server-side scripting to display all data the client needs dynamically on the screen. These data are generally gathered from a database stored on a server and sent to the client (The Browser). The client can now see it via other scripting codes such as JavaScript and HTML.

One of the essential benefits of server-side scripting is that it gives access to create website content for individual users. A dynamic website can highlight or make suggestions for the most relevant content for the users; this process is based on users’ habits and history. One more benefit is that it can store your personal information. For more illustration, when you use your stored credit card details for future payments.

Server-side scripting allows interacting with users, sending notifications & updates through emails or any other channels. All of these features allow for far more in-depth interaction with users.

What is scripting?

Before talking about server-side scripting, First, we need to know some main points before we go deeper. We have to know firstly, what is scripting? Secondly, what is the difference between Server-Side Scripting & Client-Side Scripting?

Let us start with scripting; what is the meaning of this word? Scripting means all series of commands that can be executed without compiling (the transformation from Source Code (human-readable) into machine code).

Note: All scripting languages are programming languages, but not all programming languages are scripting languages!

What is server-side scripting?

You may now ask yourself, how the conversion of higher-level language to lower-level language occur for execution? However, the compilation does not take place in scripting languages. The answer is By Interpreting. This answer is explained by server-side scripting. So, what is the meaning of that?

Server-side scripting means everything that happens on the server. Web browsers communicate with web servers through something called HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). When you make any action with your browser, like entering some URL and clicking enter, an HTTP request is sent from your browser to the targeted server. After that, the server is waiting for a client-side request; this request is sent by something called a method like POST, GET, or DELETE.

Then, the server processes this request when it arrives and gives something called HTTP Response to the browser; this response holds a status line indicating whether the request succeeded or not (e.g. “HTTP/1.1 200 OK” for success).

The body of the response to a request would contain the requested content, maybe an image, Html page, or anything else. So, we can say that server-side scripting is executed and processed on the server

Client-Side scripting & Server-Side scripting?

Let us explain the server-side more deeply by a comparison between the server-side & client-side. Firstly, let’s know a bit about client-side scripting. Client-side scripting refers to the execution of scripts such as JavaScript on the client computer, typically a browser. Since JavaScript is widely supported, all sorts of scripts will run on the client-side if they are written in it.

Other scripting languages are only allowed if the user’s browser requires them. Let’s give an example that discusses the whole operation. Imagine you have a user validation form where the form validates the user entered data, suppose a user enters his username and password, hits a submit button. The request will go from the client-side (which is the form and web browser) to the server-side, and then the server script will validate the user entered data and compare it with the stored data in the server’s database. If the entered data is valid, then the server will respond with a succession status and send the succession response body to the client-side (Web Browser).

Else, it will respond with a failure status line, and the response body will be something like (Please re-enter the data correctly). Still unclear? Let’s take another example.

Static web pages & Dynamic web pages

We have two types of web pages on the web: Static web pages & Dynamic web pages. We will take the static web page as an example for client-side scripting and the other page as an example for server-side scripting.

A static web page is straightforward, known as a flat or stationary web page. They are exactly loaded as they are on the web server into the client’s browser. These web pages have static information on them. Written in languages such as (HTML, CSS, JS, Bootstrap …) Hardcoded content cannot be changed by the user but only from the code itself. On the static page, when the server receives some request from the browser by HTTP “GET” request, it sends a response to the client-side containing the document and success status (200 OK) without doing any additional process.

If the file document could not be retrieved for any reason, the error status will be returned. So, there is no interaction between the browser and the data on the server, and there are no processes done on the server-side. You may now think that static web pages are a terrible thing. But what you do not know is that it has advantages! And some big sites have static pages. Its Advantages are:

  • Static web pages are suitable for content that rarely needs to be updated or changed.
  • Enhance the protection of complex websites. (If a vulnerability occurs, complex websites are susceptible to web shell attacks).
  • End-user efficiency is improved when compared to dynamic websites.
  • Using cloud storage instead of a hosted environment will save money.
  • It is simple to set up security settings, which makes it more secure.

On the opposite side, the dynamic web page is more complicated than the static one. The dynamic web page has dynamic content that is not hard-coded but can be changed by the Client-side user.

Written in languages such as (AJAX, PHP, ASP.NET …) When the content on a website changes regularly, such as stock prices or weather forecasts, dynamic web pages are used. The dynamic pages’ content is generated dynamically only when needed or allowed to be generated. It is generated from the database on the server. For example, when displaying all the posts posted by your friends on Facebook on your timeline.

What happens is the server receives a request like “GET” and some queries to get specific results from the server’s database and then puts those results in the HTML placeholder for those results and then displays the fetched results in the client-side browser. So, your Facebook timeline page is dynamic. A dynamic site will return different data for a URL depending on the user’s input or saved preferences and perform other operations as part of the answer.

Types of Dynamic Web Pages

  • Server-Side Dynamic Web Page:

a web page that is created using server-side scripts and managed by an application server. Parameters decide how each new web page is assembled, including how more client-side processing is set up in server-side scripting.

  • Client-Side Dynamic Web Page

A client-side dynamic web page uses HTML scripting to process the page as it loads in the browser. The HTML in the received page is parsed into the Document Object Model, or DOM, representing the loaded web page determined by JavaScript and other scripting languages.

The DOM can then be dynamically modified or adjusted using the same client-side techniques. Even if a web page is dynamic on the client-side, it can still be hosted on a static hosting service like GitHub Pages or Amazon S3 if it doesn’t include any server-side code.

Technologies & Languages Client and Server Use

The client uses browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc., and it uses languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript.

HTML: It is the frame for the website and is one of the most fundamental building blocks of web programming. It explains how the material is organized.

CSS: Offers a method for designing graphic elements that help make a web application’s appearance more appealing.

JS: While JavaScript was designed specifically for this reason, it is now used as a server-side scripting technology by several frameworks.

The server-side scripting language is responsible for three components: the server, database, APIs, and back-end web applications. When a browser requests a website that includes server-side scripting, the webserver processes the script before returning the page to the browser. Extracting information from a database, conducting basic calculations, or selecting the required material to be displayed at the client-end, are all script processing examples.

The script is being executed, and the results are being sent to the browser. When the content is served, the webserver abstracts the end-users scripts, making the data and source code more secure.

Server-side Scripting Languages:

Following the implementation of CGI, a variety of programming languages for server-side scripting appeared, including PHP, Python, Ruby, ColdFusion, C#, Java, C++, and others, some of which are listed below:

  • PHP: PHP is the most common server-side language on the internet, and it’s used to pull and edit data from databases. It’s most widely used in conjunction with SQL-based databases. PHP was created specifically for the web and is now one of the most commonly used programming languages. It’s simple to set up and use, competes with many modern frameworks, and serves as the basis for various content management systems. WordPress, Wikipedia, and Facebook are all PHP-powered sites.
  • Python: Python is a fast-programming language with fewer code lines, making it perfect for bringing products to market quickly. It focuses on readability and accessibility, making it suitable for newcomers. It’s the oldest of the scripting languages, and it’s also the strongest. It’s ideal for object-oriented designs. YouTube, Google, and The Washington Post are only a few examples of Python-powered websites.
  • Ruby: The Ruby programming language is an excellent choice if you foresee complex logic on the database side of your website. Ruby, unlike Python, is a combination of simplicity and complexity, with short code combined with greater flexibility and additional resources. Ruby combines the back-end with database features that PHP and SQL alone cannot provide—ideal for startups, low-maintenance, and high-traffic sites.
  • C#: C# is the language of Microsoft .NET Framework, the most common framework on the web. It incorporates the best features of the C and C++ languages to provide productivity and usability. It’s great for creating Windows apps, and with the support of a cross-platform technology like Xamarin. it can also be used to develop iOS and Android smartphone apps.

And there are also server-side frameworks for those languages like:

  • Ruby on rails: This Ruby system is the most popular way to use Ruby. Its “gems” include plug-ins and code libraries that make development easier.
  • Django: This Python framework was created to help developers function in a fast-paced environment. Pinterest, Nasa, and Pitchfork are all Django pages.
  • ASP.NET: This Microsoft framework is the most commonly used enterprise-level framework since it supports several programming languages for a single project. As a result, the same application can be created via CLI in both C# and C++ (common language interface). ASP.NET 5, the most recent update, is now available on non-Windows platforms for the first time.

What are the benefits of using a framework for server-side development?

You can design and create a website entirely with code written purely in a programming language. It is possible, but it will take longer. It necessitates extensive coding and a significant amount of time. Frameworks are needed to minimize the amount of code written and make coding for back-end applications more straightforward and approachable.

Frameworks are collections of resources, services, and libraries that make the web development process easier. Some back-end frameworks have the features mentioned below, giving them an advantage over other frameworks and allowing them to code entirely in the programming language.

How to Select the Proper Technology to Be Used?

  • Productivity: How quickly can you accomplish the work? It’s a key element for choosing a system. If you expect any common issues or problems close to those already encountered, you may use an opinionated system. These frameworks would then provide a ready-to-use solution. Minor aspects like these would enhance the team’s overall productivity.
  • Performance of the framework and the language: The framework and underlying language’s success are factors in the decision. Also, larger frameworks have enough speed to accommodate medium-sized sits, so ‘speed’ isn’t a significant concern.
  • Scalability: The back-end platform application you develop should be scalable, Vertical and horizontal scaling are the two forms of scaling. When your website becomes popular, you should be able to scale it by upgrading to more powerful hardware vertically. If you have exhausted caching, you should be able to scale the same software to spread your site across several web servers and share the load.
  • Security: Data security and privacy are crucial. Some systems have a higher degree of protection than others. You can select the framework based on how stable you want your system to be.
  • Community Support & Documentation: Your system of choice must have a broad community of users and documentation. They make it easier for other coders to find relevant knowledge and make the learning process go more smoothly. It’s also helpful when you’re working on a project and run into a problem.

Key Differences Between Server-Side Scripting & Client-Side Scripting

  • Server-Side Scripting is used in the back-end, where the website’s source code is hidden at the client-side. On the other hand, client-side scripting is used at the front-end, which users can see from their browser.
  • When a server-side script is run, it sends a request to the server. Client-side scripting, on the other hand, does not require any server interaction.
  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are examples of client-side scripting languages. Programming languages such as PHP,, Ruby, ColdFusion, Python, C#, Java, C++, and others, on the other hand.
  • Server-side scripting helps personalize web pages and make dynamic changes to websites. On the other side, the client-side script will effectively reduce the load on the server.

In a serverless architecture, how do server-side processes work?

Both server-side or back-end processes run on servers instead of client devices in serverless computing, but they are not deployed on any particular server or group of servers. Back-end processes are divided into functions that run on-demand and automatically scale up. In a serverless architecture, developers can still build all of the features that would usually run on the server.

Efficient storage and delivery of information

Consider how many items are available on Amazon and how many Facebook posts have been made. It would be impractical to create a separate static page for each product or article. Instead of storing the information in a folder, server-side programming helps one dynamically build and return HTML and other files (e.g. PDFs, images, etc.).

Data (JSON, XML, etc.) can also be returned for rendering by suitable client-side web frameworks. The server isn’t restricted to transmitting data from databases; it could also return the results of software tools or data from communications services. Even the type of client computer that receives the content may be targeted.

Since the data is kept in a database, it can be exchanged and modified with other business systems more easily (for example, when products are sold online or in a shop, the shop might update its inventory database).

Customized user experience

User information can be processed and used by servers to provide a more personalized and convenient user experience. Some websites, for example, save credit card information so that the client doesn’t have to enter it again. Sites like Google Maps can provide routing information based on saved or current locations, as well as search or travel history to highlight local businesses in search results.

A more in-depth study of user preferences can be used to predict their desires and further tailor answers and alerts, such as having a list of previously visited or famous places on a map that you may want to check out.

Controlled Access to Content

Sites may use server-side programming to limit access to approved users and serve only the information they can see.

Examples from the real world include:

  • Users on social networking sites like Facebook have total control over their information, but only their friends can see or comment on it. Authorization is an essential aspect of the user experience since it limits who can see their data and, as a result, who appears in their feed.
  • Users on freelancing websites also have total control over their info like nobody except the profile’s owner can see his balance.

Store Session Info

Developers can use sessions for server-side programming, which is a process that allows a server to store information about a site’s current user and send various responses based on that information.

This process enables a website to recognize a user who has previously signed in and viewed certain links or his order history or simply save the state of a game to return to the site and pick up where he left off.

Notifications & Communication

Servers can send general or user-specific updates via the website, email, SMS, instant messaging, video chat, or other communication methods.

Here are a few examples:

  • Facebook and Twitter send you emails and SMS messages to let you know when there are new messages or any new notifications.
  • Amazon sends you product emails on a daily basis that suggest products that are close to those you’ve already purchased or seen and that you may be interested in.
  • A web server can send site administrators warning messages if the server’s memory is low or if unusual user behaviour is detected.

Data Analysis

A website can gather a lot of information about its visitors, such as what they look for, what they purchase, suggest, and how long they spend on each page. Based on the analysis of this data, server-side programming can be used to refine responses.

Amazon and Google, for example, both endorse items based on past searches (and purchases).

Read about Methods of capturing, selecting, managing and exchanging data

Further Reading

Server-side Scripting