There are several differences: Custom tags can manipulate JSP content; beans cannot. Complex operations can be reduced to a significantly simpler form with custom tags than with beans. Custom tags require quite a bit more work to set up than do beans. Custom tags usually define relatively self-contained behavior, whereas beans are often defined in one servlet and used in a different servlet or JSP page. Custom tags are available only in JSP 1.1 and later, but beans can be used in all JSP 1.x versions.