(Excerpt from "The MathML Handbook" by Pavi Sandhu)

webMathematica is a Java-based application that provides interactive access to Mathematica computations over the Web. The underlying technology behind webMathematica is called Mathematica Server Pages (MSP), which is an application of Java servlet technology. Servlets are Java programs that run on a Web server, either directly or through a separate plug-in program called a servlet container. The details of installing and configuring webMathematica on a server can be somewhat complicated. However, once the initial installation is done, it is relatively easy to write Web pages that can interact with the server to produce live mathematical content.

The basic idea is that you can insert Mathematica commands into a standard HTML document in the form of special Mathlet tags. When a Web page enhanced in this way is submitted to a suitably configured Web server, each Mathlet tag is interpreted and its contents evaluated by a copy of Mathematica running on the server. The results of the evaluation are then inserted into the HTML document, replacing the original Mathlet tag. The new Web page is then returned back to the client and displayed in the browser.

webMathematica thus provides a simple way to integrate Mathematica input and output into a standard Web page. The Web server can run multiple Mathematica sessions simultaneously and can manage multiple requests, queuing and assigning evaluations as a new session becomes available. Users can purchase a license for any desired number of sessions, depending on the level of demand expected on the Web site. The configuration is scalable, and you can easily modify it for high levels of usage by increasing the number of Mathematica sessions available.

HTML documents enhanced by the addition of Mathlet tags are called MSP scripts. They must have the file extension .msp. A typical Mathlet tag has the following structure:

<% Mathlet expr %>

Here, expr can be any command or sequence of commands that is valid as input to Mathematica. In addition to ordinary Mathematica commands, Mathlet tags can contain a small set of commands, with the prefix MSP, that are defined exclusively for use in MSP scripts. These handle various details of the interaction between the Web page and Mathematica. Let’s look at a few examples of MSP scripts to illustrate how such pages work.



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