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12.1 "Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave"

This chapter is the third part of our look at Python Internet programming. In the last two chapters, we explored sockets and basic client-side programming interfaces such as FTP and email. In this chapter, our main focus will be on writing server-side scripts in Python -- a type of program usually referred to as CGI scripts. Server-side scripting and its derivatives are at the heart of much of what happens on the Web these days.

As we'll see, Python makes an ideal language for writing scripts to implement and customize web sites, due to both its ease of use and its library support. In the following two chapters, we will use the basics we learn in this chapter to implement full-blown web sites. After that, we will wrap up with a chapter that looks at other Internet-related topics and technologies. Here, our goal is to understand the fundamentals of server-side scripting, before exploring systems that build upon that basic model.

A House upon the Sand

As you read the next three chapters of this book, please keep in mind that they are intended only as an introduction to server-side scripting with Python. The webmaster domain is large and complex, changes continuously, and often prescribes many ways to accomplish a given goal -- some of which can vary from browser to browser and server to server. For instance, the password encryption scheme of the next chapter may be unnecessary under certain scenarios, and special HTML tags may sometimes obviate some work we'll do here.

Given such a large and shifting knowledge base, this part of the book does not even pretend to be a complete look at the server-side scripting domain. To become truly proficient in this area, you should study other texts for additional webmaster-y details and tricks (e.g., O'Reilly's HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide). Here, you will meet Python's CGI toolset and learn enough to start writing substantial web sites of your own in Python. But you should not take this text as the final word on the subject.

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