Since 1996, I have been working on the web for various reasons: personal, commercial, educational, academic, etc. What fascinates me most is the growth curve that the web witnesses when a single minor detail changes as well as the advance that single person can impose by introducing a tool, a language, a website, or even a personal homepage.
Back in 1996, the only thing that existed for me was personal and commercial homepages showing addresses and static data. CGI, in Lebanon, was still a new technology to be discovered. I had to undergo three days of research to understand how to connect a C program to the web via CGI-BIN under Apache. I have to admit that it took me another 8 days of work to get working under Microsoft’s Personal Web Server due to the many bugs that existed back then. Another challenge for me was to learn Java, in general, and Java Applets in particular before writing my first News Scroller applet for Notre Dame University’s website during my work as a webmaster
I started coding for the web under ASP. I started a very small business with a friend of mine where we convinced some local companies of having a dynamic website. The first dynamic website that I wrote was a CGI-based shopping basket for a local company called GoldenCrownCo.
Later on, I developed an ASP Shopping Catalog and Basket for Izzat El Daouk and Sons. I kept working using Microsoft technology until 1999 when IIS was introduced without taking into consideration complete backward-compatibility into consideration. I worked for a month trying to know where the problem was. I asked the ISP that hosted the website (Data Management nowadays known as IDM) for any compatibility issues causing such a problem.
After two months with the website down, the problem was found to be due to compatibility issues between the previous web server configuration and the new one (mainly under the global.asa file). I tried contacting Data Management several times for the purpose of getting the website back up but the answer was always the same (we are working on it) and the website remained without a shopping basket until NOW since the old server that hosted the ASP engine was removed without any proper replacement.
This problem caused me a big loss with the other customers that I had so I started looking for alternatives. The first alternative that came across was Perl. I learned Perl fairly quickly and started coding a little bit before coming across PHP which became my language of choice for personal and small business websites. Later on, I learned JSP and used it in some projects at the University of Ottawa and IBM Canada Ltd.
Since the beginning, I realized that the Web was here to grow and that the key factor for success was to teach what you learn and learn from what you teach. As such, I started my own company under the name of NetDesignPlus sarl before proceeding with my Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa.
The web for me is a hobby, a spoiled child that I keep learning from. Internet Security, on the other hand, is a never-ending always-growing road that can only be controlled by detailed observation, objective analysis, and daily careful monitoring.
The purpose of this document is two-fold:
- My personal historical experience with the web
- Some advice to my readers so they learn from the mistakes of others (me in this case)
Based on personal experience, I can safely state that throughout the past 6 years and despite the rapid growth of the Internet, open source web technologies have maintained a fairly decent level of reliability, security, and stability. Everybody makes mistakes on the web. Two questions however are of high importance:
- How Severe Is the problem? Can it be fixed temporarily until an official patch is provided?
- What is the root cause of the problem? The operating system or the application itself?
These two questions are the basis for many discussions, papers, research topics, and points of conflict on the web and in the market. Later on, throughout this blog, I will be elaborating more and more about these topics.