By Elden Nelson
Back when Microsoft was getting ready to launch Visual Studio .NET, I interviewed a number of Microsoft luminaries. Anders Hejlsberg, the genius behind Microsoft's C# programming language, was one of them. I thought I'd start easy by asking him to describe the best thing about VS .NET. Of course, I fully expected him to say "C#." So he caught me off guard with his response: "ASP.NET." Even then, those in the know clearly understood the potential - and importance - of this technology.
Now, with ASP.NET having been around for just over a year, I think it's worthwhile to take a look at how far ASP.NET has come and where it's going. There are a couple of good reasons to do this. First, to reinforce the obvious for developers and companies who have taken the plunge already: You've made a smart decision. And second, for those of you still trying to convince your companies that it's time to make the move, here's some ammunition.
ASP.NET is mainstream: Companies skittish about trying a new technology generally are nervous to be the first to put their toe in the water. Maybe nine months ago, corporations with this concern about ASP.NET had a valid point. Now, though, you'll find Home Shopping Network, Pacific Life, Dell, Mary Kay, and many more companies hooked on ASP.NET. You can get a good start on learning the way some companies have started using ASP.NET at http://www.asp.net/customers.
ASP.NET is gaining momentum: More than 1 million professional developers worldwide now use ASP.NET. That number's growing, too, even as competing technologies are tapering off or even dropping (Java, anyone?). When you consider the obvious - and I'm going to call it inevitable - upgrade path from ASP to ASP.NET, you can expect this momentum to build at an increasing rate over the next year and beyond.
ASP.NET has strong support: I've been following Microsoft's developer relations for years and years, but I have never seen anything like the depth of support it provides to ASP.NET developers. Web Matrix - the free ASP.NET development tool - has been downloaded 365,000 times. The IBuySpy demo app has been downloaded 300,000 times. Microsoft has its set of free ASP.NET Starter Kits in beta now, and they make it almost painfully easy to get common functionality running in your Web apps. Does Microsoft have ulterior motives in providing all these free developer tools? Of course they do! They want to hook you on the technology, so you (or, more precisely, the company you work for) will eventually buy their server packages. Do you care that Microsoft has an ulterior motive? At least in this case, you shouldn't.
Meanwhile, support for ASP.NET outside of Microsoft is strong. There are nearly 150 books published on ASP.NET. There's a rich array of components - both commercial and free (more than 340,000 downloads from the ASP.NET control gallery alone!) available to accelerate development chores. There's an ever-increasing number of Web sites devoted to teaching you this technology. And, just in case you forgot what you're looking at right now, there's a magazine so committed to the technology that it talks about nothing else.
ASP.NET has huge potential: This year we'll see a new version of ASP.NET - and when it debuts, you can bet we'll devote some serious space to it. The fact is, though, we haven't even come close to exhausting the depth of this initial release of ASP.NET. Every month, asp.netPRO readers send me unique, thought-provoking questions and article ideas. In an emerging field like this, there are plenty of opportunities to make your mark - to do something nobody else has been able to do, or maybe something nobody else has even thought of.
In short, you've picked a cool technology to develop in, and it's a great time to do it. Make sure your company knows that, too.
Elden Nelson is editor-in-chief of asp.netPRO and its companion e-newsletter, asp.netNOW. Let him know what you're doing with ASP.NET; e-mail him at [email protected].
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