Would any of you advise going for WAMP (again the Windows hosting costs)
To clarify, WAMP (and XAMPP, LAMP.. even AMP!) have little to do with the hosting service. They are free packages that you can install to quickly get up and running with server-side coding. They enable you to build and test sites locally. [Added
: Well, this may not be entirely true: if your host uses an Apache server then there may be benefits to developing in this environment.]
I use WAMP, which is targeted for Windows, but have previously used XAMPP. They are pretty much the same. They install an Apache server, PHP and MySql, and a bunch of other nonsense! I recall that XAMPP included Perl libraries.
I cannot suggest which SS-language is preferable, or future-proof. I use PHP mainly because it was so easy to get started, via XAMPP and a good book: "PHP and MySql something" by Larry Ullman
. If you go this route then recent PHP versions are more fully OO, and use PDO
rather than the MySql libraries: PDO is more up-to-date OO-technology that can work with any database system. [I'm sure others might recommend ColdFusion, Python, etc..]
If I knew which language was future-proof.. I probably wouldn't tell you
Most hosts provide PHP and MySql (and Perl, and..) but I've noticed that free (or cheaper) hosts don't tend to include Python; but this is only based on my limited experience.
XHTML is dead in the water. It is Ex-HTML (he, he!!)