I attended ScottGu’s “Overview of ASP.NET ‘Whidbey’” presentation this afternoon and to a degree, I got that same feeling that we had when the .NET 1.0 stuff was originally revealed: this is great stuff, but you say it isn’t ready yet so we’re gonna have to wait? How can you ask us to wait? We get a glimpse of the future but have to go on day-to-day writing things the old way knowing that it’s going to be easier and better but not just yet.
I think we’re slightly better off: we know that we can be on the right path by adopting managed code and all that goes with that. We can get substantial benefits from doing that today, and we know that having done that we’re in good shape for things to come.
As far as the detail, Scott says that they have focused on four main areas:
- Productivity - trying to reduce the amount of code by 2/3 and enabling scenarios that aren’t currently easily possible
- Administration and Management - making it easy to automatically and programmatically manage site configuration
- Total Extensibility
- Performance and Scalability
It seems like part of the approach to reducing the amount of code we have to write is by predicting the kind of functionality we need and wrapping that up in server controls that are part of the core framework. The design patterns that have been adopted to incorporate extensibility in this model are interesting but I wonder how far this can be taken. In addition, I wonder how the component vendors feel who have written their own implementation of this core functionality only to find the rug pulled out from under them. I guess they have to sell their product for today’s market while they can.
Despite my cynicism, there are a bunch of features I really like. The new Page Framework allowing a hierarchy of master pages is fantastic and takes code and presentation separation to another level. Some of this can be achieved today using user controls but this gives a much more finely grained control over the page.
There were a few things that Scott was reluctant to call new features but that might be classified as bug fixes including the HTML editor now leaving your markup alone at long last and better support for CSS without injecting styles inline all over the place. New bits in VS.NET include being able to edit a web folder without needing a project file, being able to use web projects without necessarily having FrontPage extensions (though it was surprising that they haven’t yet committed to implementing against WebDAV), and being able to compile code behind into more than one DLL.
All in all, lots of must have features that, well, we can’t really have yet!!