You have now learned about and built examples of several early implementations for web applications - file servers and server pages. These kinds of web applications dominated the Internet in the 90’s, and continue to play a major role today. However, the needs of web applications grew increasingly more dynamic as the web continued to evolve, leading to the development of truly dynamic web servers built around a stack of technologies. You’ve also built several of these as well… and discovered just how long it can take to build one from scratch.
Consider the simple case of an online store - it must authenticate users, keep track of their shopping carts, and in processing orders, send emails to the user and instructions to inventory/warehouse systems. These are not trivial needs, nor are the programs built to meet them simple. These needs heralded the introduction of full-stack web development approaches; the stack being a combination of technologies that had to be used together effectively to host a web application.
In order to be a web developer, therefore, a programmer needed familiarity with a number of technologies, a basic grounding in IT, and proficiency with a programming languages. Of course, there were a limited number of professionals with these capacities available, and demand for them has never stopped growing.
Moreover, the applications themselves began to grow increasingly complex. It is very likely that you’ve already found yourself struggling to understand the various parts of our examples in this class, and how they fit together. This was also true for the developers tackling these problems in the past, especially as many did not have deep enough training. This situation paralleled the software crisis of the 70’s, where increasingly sophisticated programs were being developed by undertrained programmers, and software development was plagued with cost overruns, missed deadlines, and failed projects.
One major outcome of the software crisis was the development of software engineering techniques, and changes to programming languages to help programmers make less errors in writing code, and find their errors more quickly. A similar process occurred with web development in the 2000’s, leading to the development of “web frameworks”. These grew from the realization that most dynamic web servers need the same core features - the ability to interact with persistent data sources, to authenticate users and keep track of their actions on the site, and to interact with other servers. A web development framework seeks to provide those features, allowing the developer to quickly get started building the more unique features of the server.