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Server-Side Programming: The Backbone of Dynamic Websites

Server-side programming is the backbone of many websites and applications you use daily. To make it easy to understand, consider it as the magic behind the scenes that allows websites to deliver personalized, interactive content to their visitors. This ‘magic’ happens not on your computer but on the website’s server.

What is Server-Side Programming?

Fundamentally, server-side programming is a collection of techniques developers employ to create dynamic web pages. Unlike static pages that remain the same for all visitors, dynamic pages can display different content to different users, all thanks to server-side programming. It leverages various languages such as PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, and Node.js. You can learn more about server-side programming with Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser: Introduction to server-side programming on Mozilla Docs and server-side programming outline on Mozilla Docs.

PHP: The Crucial Server-Side Language

Let’s delve into PHP, a common server-side programming language. PHP, which stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, is embedded within the HTML code of a website. Before a web page reaches your screen, the server runs PHP to generate content that meets your needs. It has numerous applications, including database management, dynamic content creation, and session tracking. You can read more about What PHP is on the PHP Foundation site and about What PHP is and its history on Wikipedia.

MySQL: The Database Management System

Now, let’s shine a light on MySQL, a core component of server-side programming. MySQL, an open-source relational database management system, uses Structured Query Language (SQL). With SQL, developers can add, access, and manage data swiftly and reliably. MySQL is a central component in the LAMP web application software stack, alongside Linux, Apache, and Perl/PHP/Python. You can read more about What MySQL is on the MySQL developer site, What MySQL is, and its history on Wikipedia.

MariaDB: The MySQL Alternative

Last but not least, in our journey into server-side programming is MariaDB. This open-source relational database management system emerged from the roots of MySQL, developed by the original brains behind MySQL. Why the new system? They sought to address concerns that arose from Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL. MariaDB was designed to maintain high compatibility with MySQL, ensuring an easy switch with minimal disruptions. You can read more about What is MariaDB on the foundation site and What is MariaDB and its history on Wikipedia.

The Magic Behind Server-Side Programming

To illustrate the interplay of these server-side programming components, imagine a user interacting with a web form. The data entered into the form triggers a request sent to the server, where a PHP script springs into action. This script might sanitize input data and prepare an SQL query. Then, MySQL or MariaDB interacts with the server’s database, reading or writing data as needed. Once complete, the PHP script generates an HTML document that includes this data, which is then sent back to the user’s browser. And voila! The user sees a dynamically generated web page.


Remember, server-side programming technologies are vast and diverse. While PHP, MySQL, and MariaDB are popular choices, there are alternatives such as Python or Ruby for server-side scripting and PostgreSQL or MongoDB for database management. When used adeptly, these tools create the dynamic, interactive, and user-friendly websites we all know and love.


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