eB4T Features -
Thanx to Pete Stein, of ThinkQuest 1999 entry UCS: The Ultimate Computer Source, for his generous contribution to this article!
1. eCommerce... Magic?
So, you want to be an eBusiness entrepreneur?
Online ordering, credit card checks, e-mail confirmation, shopping carts, and... Not so fast. eCommerce doesn't work by magic.
When a client tries to order a product, a magical fairy does not relay the request.
Putting business services on a website makes up the entire concept of eBusiness (electronic business).
Business without pen and paper. Business without the shopper driving a half a mile to the nearest convenience store to get some tooth paste.
To explain how electronic business works, we look at how it CAN work.
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HTML, the programming language that webpages are written in, is not able to do anything that is desired for interactivity. HTML can only arrange information. It can't process, analyze, or save information, which is everything youu need for web page business services.
This is where CGI saves the day. CGI stands for Computer Gateway Interface.
WHAT?! The name might sound a little bit confusing, but the technology involves everyday programming to accomplish what the business/web designer wants to do.
CGI allows for the processing of information from Web pages. How does it do that?
HTML can only write things to the screen. It can't make any calculations or determinations, at all what-so-ever. However, HTML can send information to another place. HTML has features called forms. Forms let users enter information into text fields, or drag down boxes, or other forms of input. Then, the web page is able to send the information to a CGI script (a CGI program). The CGI program can then process the information, and send something back that can be viewed by the user.
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3. Getting the Picture
So what does ALL of this mean?
You now know that with CGI, a web page can return custom information based on what the user typed in. But what does this accomplish? A lot. Using CGI, tons of interactive things can be added to a site, and in this case, things that make the site an eBusiness outlet.
The first thing to know about CGI is that CGI is not a programming language. CGI refers to a method of using already-existing programming languages, along with a webpage (HTML). Using CGI requires programming knowledge. CGI is usually done with a language called Perl, but it can be done with most languages. For instance, CGI can also be done with C.
The basic concept behind CGI is that the form on a webpage, when activated, can send all of the information that the user put into the form to a CGI script. A CGI script (which could be in Perl or C or another language) then must have code to interpret the information, figure out what to do with it, possibly perform an action like e-mailing information to you or adding information to a database, and then sending something back to the user.
Like, if the user sent in a purchase request, the script would both internally e-mail the business owner about the request, and it would generate a webpage for the user saying "Thank you for ordering this product" or something similar.
I think I get it, where can I learn Perl?
The best way to understand CGI/Perl is to learn it, of course. Here are some great resources for you to check out to learn about Perl/CGI:
UCS: The Ultimate Computer Source - Perl Tutorial
CGI-Resources.com: All about Perl
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