Monthly Archives: July 2007

Interview with Scott Guthrie, creator of ASP.NET

Last year I wrote a book (in Dutch) about ASP.NET 2.0. For that book I did an interview with Scott Guthrie, General Manager of the .NET Developer Platform group at Microsoft. In the book the interview is of course translated and also edited to fit the book. Below is the original unedited version.

Who are you?
My name is Scott Guthrie. I am the General Manager of .NET Developer Platform group within Microsoft, which means I run the development teams that build the CLR, .NET Compact Framework, ASP.NET / Atlas, Windows Presentation Foundation (aka Avalon), Windows Forms, IIS 7.0, Commerce Server, and the Visual Studio development tools for ASP.NET and WPF.

How long have you worked for Microsoft, and in what did you do up to becoming General Manager?
I’ve been at Microsoft for 9 years.  I’ve been focusing on frameworks, tools and servers for developers pretty much the entire time.  Prior to my current role, I ran the teams that built ASP.NET, IIS 7.0, and Visual Web Developer.

You are generally seen as the (co-)creator of ASP.NET. How was ASP.NET conceived and where did you get the ideas from?
We actually started the ASP.NET project in late 1997 and early 1998.  At the time ASP was still relatively new, and we initially weren’t sure whether there was anything left to-do in the web space (little did we know)!  We then spent a lot of time talking with developers and customers using ASP and quickly realized that there were a lot of things left to resolve. 

Some specific issues/requests that came up again and again from customers: provide the ability to write much cleaner code that provided good code/content separation (rather than mixing code up in the HTML), provide the ability to write applications using a variety of coding languages (and not just VBScript and Jscript), deliver a more robust execution environment (avoiding memory leaks and crashes that could bring down the server), provide a much cleaner configuration/code deployment model, deliver a built-in security architecture, enable built-in output caching support to improve scalability, and more.

A colleague of mine (Mark Anders) and I spent about 2 months brainstorming ideas about how we could build a programming model that delivered all of this.  Eventually we decided we needed to put together a prototype to try out the concepts, and I ended up coding it up over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday in 1997/98 (I was a hardcore geek then <g>).   We showed off the prototype to a lot of people within the company, built a lot of excitement, and got the go ahead to build a team to deliver it.

What are the main differences between ASP.NET 1.x and ASP.NET 2.0?
We spent a lot of time working with customers to identify where they spend their time writing code today within web applications, and then worked to add new features in ASP.NET 2.0 to help simplify these tasks dramatically.  Some examples: Master Pages allow you to easily define a consistent layout across your site/application, the new Membership/Roles API provides an easy way to manage users/passwords/roles and allows you to build flexible secure application in only a few minutes, the new GridView/DetailsView/DataSource controls enable you to easily provide data entry and editing views on top of data (including 3-tier data access support), Web Parts provide the ability to enable portal-style layout within any page and enable drag/drop end-user customization that works both in regular ASP.NET applications and SharePoint solutions, Localization support has been added to make it much easier to build multi-lingual applications that can adjust at runtime depending on the culture/language of the incoming user, SQL Output Caching enables developers to output cache any content within a site and have it automatically be invalidated and re-generated when backend data changes on a site (dramatically improving performance), Site Navigation and Menu controls make it much easier to build menu structures and navigation across your sites, Health Monitoring makes it easier to monitor how your application is doing once it is deployed, and there are many more features I could keep calling out.

If you could give one tip to people learning ASP.NET 2.0, what would it be?
I’d recommend spending time on the new web-site in the “Getting Started” and the “Learn” sections.  We are putting out several new videos and tutorials each week on the site that help show how you can take best advantage of new features with ASP.NET.  These can make it significantly easier to take full advantage of the platform and build great applications.  I’d also recommend subscribing to my blog:  I try and post 1-2 tips/tricks a week that you can use.

What do you (personally) think is the coolest feature of ASP.NET 2.0?
Master Pages is probably the most popular feature that virtually everyone takes immediate use of – so in terms of popularity that is probably the coolest.

I think the new ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX Extensions product we are shipping later this year is also really, really cool (note: this was formerly codenamed “Atlas”).  This will provide a free, fully-supported AJAX library with suite of ASP.NET 2.0 server controls that enable you to easily add AJAX functionality to your ASP.NET 2.0 sites. 

What are the long term goals for ASP.NET, and what will we see of that in the coming years?
The next release of ASP.NET will have a lot of great additions.  You will see even richer support for the AJAX Extensions built-into the next release, as well as much richer support for building more interactive user experiences that take full advantage of the browser.

You’ll also see ASP.NET take advantage of the new LINQ technologies that are coming out with .NET, and which will enable really rich data modeling and mapping support with code which will dramatically improve the productivity of working with data.  When LINQ is combined with the ASP.NET 2.0 GridView, DetailsView and other data controls, you have a tremendously easy and powerful programming model for building AJAX enabled data applications.  I’m really excited to see the applications people build with it.  It is going to be a very exciting future!

SDC op 17 en 18 september

Op 17 en 18 september is in ons land weer de Software Developer Conference (SDC) georganiseerd door het Software Developer Network. Hier zijn een aantal toonaangevende internationale sprekers te zien waarvoor je normaal gezien naar het buitenland moet. Zeker de moeite waard dus. Zie voor meer info. Ik weet zelf helaas nog niet of ik erbij kan zijn, hoewel Ordina wel een stand heeft.