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Request for help: Web technology

Hey fellow debian folks:

I opened my big fat mouth at work at a meeting today outlining
our new software architecture/strategy.  One of our potential
new products will be a back-end database presenting various 
services to a bunch of web clients (like every other company
these days, right?)

The current management concept is to use Microsoft VB to produce
various COM objects on the backend (and I guess front end)
to do much of this (and so-called "Active server pages"), etc.

I asked why we were not making use of the web browser analogy
to decouple ourselves from such a Microsoft-centric system,
and couldn't we try to make use of better web tools and more
generic concepts available today.

Management was not generally open to the idea of changing, 
although the project manager told me that if I could generate 
a proof-of-concept the illustrated some advantage he would
be willing to support it.

Now I have had a line of people coming into my office to ask me 
what other ideas I might have.

Aside from the obvious (use of Java, a web server supporting
modules such as Apache, etc.) can any of you web-savvy people
steer me towards alternative technologies that could serve
many of the same purposes without shackling us to continous
Redmondian domination?

Any ideas, URL's, reading assignments, etc., would be appreciated.


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