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Tip of the Day
Language: JSP
Expertise: Beginner
Oct 22, 1999

Servlets vs JSP

Question:
What is the difference between servlets and Java Server Pages? Which is preferred?

Answer:
Servlets and Java Server Pages are complementary APIs, both providing a means for generating dynamic Web content. A servlet is a Java class implementing the javax.servlet.Servlet interface that runs within a Web or application server's servlet engine, servicing client requests forwarded to it through the server. A Java Server Page is a slightly more complicated beast. JSP pages contain a mixture of HTML, Java scripts (not to be confused with JavaScript), JSP elements, and JSP directives. The elements in a Java Server Page will generally be compiled by the JSP engine into a servlet, but the JSP specification only requires that the JSP page execution entity follow the Servlet Protocol.

The advantage of Java Server Pages is that they are document-centric. Servlets, on the other hand, look and act like programs. A Java Server Page can contain Java program fragments that instantiate and execute Java classes, but these occur inside an HTML template file and are primarily used to generate dynamic content. Some of the JSP functionality can be achieved on the client, using JavaScript. The power of JSP is that it is server-based and provides a framework for Web application development. Rather than choosing between servlets and Java Server Pages, you will find that most non-trivial applications will want to use a combination of JSP and servlets. In fact, the JSP 1.1 and Servlet 2.2 specifications are based around the concept of the Web application, combining the two APIs into a unified framework.

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