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Published: Thursday, August 19, 1999

Editorial: The Internet's Future, and Where ASP Fits In

Let's face it, the world has gone Internet crazy. Everywhere you look you see a dot com; on billboards, in magazines, on the radio, on TV... even in movie trailers. I went to see Sixth Sense today, and every single trailer had a website URL posted at the end. It's obvious that mainstream America is webphilic.

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While the Internet may contain a lot of fluff, there is also starting to emerge a class of classical brick and mortar type businesses. Five years ago, who would have thought that one could bank on a virtual bank; a bank with no physical locations, no drive-through windows, no helpful tellers? Five years ago who would have thought that a company like Amazon.com, that does nothing but sell merchandise on-line, could be a company could be worth so much?

As we move into the next century, I expect this trend to continue, and to continue at an unprescedented rate! Five years from now, you'll be buying cars, clothes, shoes, insurance, deoderant, food, lawnmowers, vitamins, and beds all on-line. You'll purchase complete wardrobes without ever trying them on! Sounds far-fetched? Just wait a few years, and you'll consider buying clothes on-line second nature.

So what does this mean for us, the technical ASP developer? Will the world of tomorrow be full of ASP? Will mainstream America be throwing around the words "Response.Write" like they throw around the words "Internet" and "web" today? Hardly.

As the Internet grows and the network becomes more complex and more able to handle sophisticated transactions, we will see the rise of server-side components. These aren't going to be the small components we write today. Rather, they will be a rich, complex code, just like today's larger programs. Think of any major application software program. It is written to be primarily used by one person at one machine. Now, imagine that the exact same program could be used seemlessly by thousands of people simultaneously. Such complex programs will become 'net-centric.

Let's examine an example. Jane Doe visits our clothing site. Her personal information is automatically retrieved from her personal computer, and we instantaneously determine that she has made three purchases from our store before: a pair of shoes, and two blouses. We quickly check for matching slacks to accompany her previous blouse purchases and find a pair on sale. Jane is notified of this opportunity and decides to "try on" these pants. We send Jane's information to company that stores individual's personal, physical information; we are alerted of Jane's height, weight, measurements, skin color, and receive a 3d image of her face. Our site quickly composes a 3d model of Jane with the pants on and one of the blouses she purchased from our store earlier. We also show her with a matching pair of shoes and a necklace which is available from a partner's store.

Jane rotates the model of herself, and decides to purchase the slacks and shoes. Once she chooses to buy the two items, we retrieve her billing information from our databases and debit her credit card account and send an instantaneous message to the wearhouse to ship the purchased goods.

Scenarios like the one described above will soon be possible, and will be possible with the use of complex, distributed programs that will run on powerful servers. ASP will loose the growth it's experiencing now, but don't count ASP out.

The great thing about ASP is that it is easy to use and easy to communicate with webserver components. If it weren't for these two things, ASP would have died out a long time ago. ASP is a great glue product. You can write a series of unrelated components, have each component do its thing, return its results to ASP, and then have ASP decide what to do next. As webserver components become more common and more complex, we'll still need ASP to glue the various components together. Friends, ASP is far from being dead.

ASP is not the future, it is the present. ASP is wildly popular today, but will become less popular as distributed technologies increase and become more common. ASP won't become useless, but it won't be as centric in the web-world as it is today. So, if you're wondering if you should learn ASP, the answer is an astounding yes! It's great to know now, plus it does have a place in the future.

Happy Programming!

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