If there's one thing that people love it is a web site that has plenty of automated features. Sites that are highly interactive tend to get the most traffic and generate the most business for the companies that run them. Automated features can also play a "behind the scenes" role, making your site easier to use, run smoothly and allow for things like online sales and password protection.
There are many ways to get this type of automation into your site, but all involve either client side or server side scripting. Scripts are written in programming languages specially designed for the web, and there are several languages that are commonly used. Most client side scripts are written in Java which is still one of the best web programming languages around. Some functions of a web site must be completed via server side scripting, however, and the most commonly used languages for server side scripting are PHP, PERL, and CGI. PHP and PERL are newer languages and are gaining a lot of popularity, but there are still plenty of features that can be scripted in the granddaddy of web scripting languages, CGI.
No online sales site would be complete without a functioning shopping cart and most of the best ones have been written in CGI script. CGI web hosting is great for shopping cart scripts because it interfaces well with most databases, including the popular MYSQL and MS Access databases, it can be utilized on Windows, UNIX, LINUX, and MACOS servers with equal ease, and can be easily configured for sales tax and shipping cost calculations. Some newer shopping cart scripts are being written in PHP and PERL, but most of the functioning carts on the web are in good old CGI web hosting scripts.
Many web sites require some sort of registration and entry of a password for the user to access the site's features. This is done for a number of reasons from simply a desire to track visitors for marketing purposes to allowing postings on message boards and ensuring that users have paid any required fees associated with use of the site. The automated registration process and user name/password issuance can be written with CGI scripts and many of them have been.
Have you ever wondered how the forms you fill out online are handled? In most cases, they're handled by CGI web hosting. When a user fills in that form and hits the "submit" button, a CGI script takes over and sends the data in email or writes it to a database where it can be accessed later by the site's administrators.
These are just a few of the uses for CGI scripts on today's web sites. There are literally hundreds of others and if there's something that can be done on a web site, it is something that can be done with CGI. PHP and PERL may be gaining a lot of popularity for various reasons, but CGI was with us first and it isn't going anywhere. As long as there are web sites, CGI web hosting will remain king.
John Michaels is a freelance author for WebHostPacks.com where he regularly publishes articles on how to find a cheap web host and reviews of low cost web hosting services.