In This Part...
One of the Web's most fascinating but least understood capabilities is its ability to manage interaction between users running browsers and the programs and protocols on Web servers that make things happen. This capability stands behind the forms-handling and clickable maps we discussed in Chapters 10 and 11. It also provides the capability for online search engines, query processing, and many other customized interactions you'll encounter on the Web.
The cornerstone that holds up most Web-based interaction is the Common Gateway Interface (CGI), which specifies how browsers can request services from properly-equipped Web servers. In Chapter 13, you'll have a chance to get acquainted with CGI, and with the kinds of programs and services it supports. These truly open up the Web to all kinds of interesting functionality by providing a way to communicate information from just about any kind of computer-based program and service to Web users. This single chapter just scratches the surface of this topic, however: if you're looking for lots of details, please refer to one of our other books: The Foundations of WWW Programming, with HTML and CGI, by Ed Tittel, Mark Gaither, Sebastian Hassinger, and Mike Erwin (IDG Books Worldwide, 1995). For those in search of the gory details, this other reference will serve you much better than our single chapter herein.
Chapter 14 discusses interesting tools and technologies to make your Web documents more usable, especially through a variety of programs and services available with CGI programs. It also addresses some of the ways in which you can deal with long or complex documents, and how to avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism. It's especially informative about how to make your content more accessible to the many robots and spiders that prowl the Web, looking for information to acquire on behalf of the wide variety of search engines that will index this material and serve it up to savvy Web users upon request.
You should find this part of the book an eye-opening discussion of how to extend your Web pages to encompass whatever services you think your users need. We'll also try to point you at important repositories for CGI programs and other useful gizmos, so you won't have to reinvent the wheel!