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PHP and MySQL: The Building Blocks of Successful Web Database Applications

April 18, 2002

Sebastopol, CA--When we think of database applications today, we are likely to think of some of the more popular sites on the Web such as eBay, Amazon, or CNN.com. Database applications have been around for more than thirty years, many having been deployed using network technology long before the Web existed. Hugh E. Williams and David Lane, authors of Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL (O'Reilly, US $44.95) recall the first point-of-service systems used by bank tellers. Terminals were installed in bank branches and access to the bank's central database application was provided through a wide area network. These early applications were limited to organizations that could afford the specialized terminal equipment and, in some cases, to build and own the network infrastructure.

Today the Web provides cheap, ubiquitous networking and access to thousands of web database applications for anyone armed with browser software and an ordinary computer. And every e-commerce web site is built upon a well-designed database and a suite of applications that allow a web front end to interact with it. "Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL" shows developers how to combine two of the most important building blocks of such sites to create compelling web sites of their own. Both open source technologies, MySQL is a database query language and PHP a server-side, cross-platform, HTML-embedded scripting language used to create dynamic web content.

"This is the only book in the marketplace that has extensive coverage of issues in writing data to web databases, the fundamental problems of integrating stateful applications with the Web, and how to use PHP sessions to develop a web database application" says coauthor Lane. "It is also up-to-date and covers PHP 4 for the Web. No other popular book in the marketplace does that."

Williams adds, "Almost all books in this area are shallow in that they touch on how to solve small problems and not on why the problems exist. We saw a market for a book that not only covered the practice of developing web database applications, but also the principles. We also observed that it was hard to write medium-size applications using small-scale examples, and so we decided there was a market for a book that was oriented around a complete case study of a real world application."

To provide developers with a hands-on example of a web database application, the book introduces Hugh and Dave's Online Wines, a complete but fictional online retail site that allows users to browse, search a database, add items to a shopping cart, manage their membership, and purchase wines. Using this site as an example, developers learn how to implement searching and browsing, store user data, validate user input, manage transactions, and maintain security.

"Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL" provides readers with both theoretical and practical information on creating web database applications. The authors include many chapter-length tutorials on the PHP and MySQL languages, as well as background material on Internet and web protocols, modeling and designing relational databases, session management, and installing open source server and database software.

The book focuses on understanding and developing application logic that brings databases and the Web together. "Most web developers know that a web site and a web application are different, and our book explains why a web database application and a traditional database application are different," says Lane. "This allows the reader to think critically about the architecture of a web database application."

If you are a web developer wanting to build a small- to medium-scale web database application that will run on modest hardware and process more than a million hits a day, "Web Applications with PHP and MySQL" is a complete guide that will show you how.

Additional resources:

Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL
By Hugh E. Williams and David Lane
ISBN 0-596-00041-3, 563 pages, $44.95 (US), $69.95 (CAN)
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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