What's Wrong with Active Server Pages?
Back in 1996, most Web sites were static because the existing technologies for building dynamic content (e.g., CGI and IDC) were either too difficult to use or grossly underpowered. Microsoft's introduction of Active Server Pages (ASP), however, changed all that.
Legions of Web developers, including myself, quickly adopted the exciting new way to develop Web pages. It intermingled HTML and scripting code to produce dynamic, data-driven Web sites. ASP gained popularity despite the fact that Visual InterDev (Microsoft's development environment for creating ASP Web sites) was sorely lacking. ASP caught on because it was simple and approachable. Although you could use Visual InterDev to create ASP pages, you could use Notepad or any text editor just as easily. No compile step was necessary. Just hit save and go! And the VBScript language was so close to Visual Basic that many VB and Office programmers moved over to ASP without much difficulty. Also, you could start developing ASP Web sites using Microsoft Access and later add SQL Server (or some other server database) along with COM objects to create an n-tier application. It's no wonder ASP took off.
So why is ASP being replaced with ASP.NET? Well, not everything about ASP is good. Let's face it: ASP requires tons of scripting code to do just about anything. Microsoft tried to ease the burden with Visual InterDev's design-time controls (DTCs) and the scripting object model, but most developers quickly abandoned DTCs after discovering they were buggy and generated ASP code that wouldn't scale. ASP's speed is adequate for many moderately sized sites, but because it has no way to compile scripts, ASP's ability to scale for very large sites is hampered, unless you do a lot of work. Ever succeed in getting the Visual InterDev debugger to work? Not many have. ASP has poor support for debugging and error handling. n-tier development with COM components is always a challenge because of DLL hell and install issues, not the least of which is the impossibility of replacing DLLs without bringing down the application.
Enter ASP.NET, a revolutionary new Web development platform that addresses a majority of ASP classic's problems - and then some.
- support for compiled languages;
- rich, flexible server controls that really work;
- a VB-like page-programming model;
- support for separating code from content;
- integrated caching and forms-based security;
- automatic view-state management;
- high-performance data access;
- fantastic tool support;
- GUI debugger support;
- built-in tracing;
- Xcopy deployment;
- no-shutdown component replacement; and
- an extensible architecture.
Add to all of that the ability to easily develop Web Services and Web Service clients using ASP.NET, and you get the Web development platform of the future, today.
Simply put, ASP.NET is an order-of-magnitude advance over ASP classic. But there's a lot to learn, and that's why we decided to create a monthly magazine to support you, the ASP.NET developer. Every month in asp.netPRO, you'll find informative and insightful content from some of the brightest and best in the ASP.NET community. In the pages of asp.netPRO and its companion Web site, www.aspnetPRO.com, you'll find articles on everything you need to know to make you a better ASP.NET developer. That includes articles on ASP.NET caching; creating user and custom controls; VB .NET vs. C#; designing and implementing Web Services; getting the most out of Visual Studio .NET and other ASP.NET editors; and creating secure sites and services. You'll also find an abundance of useful tips, and reviews of third-party products and books.
I hope you find this premiere issue of asp.netPRO helpful in your development efforts. And write to [email protected] to let us know how we're doing.
Paul Litwin is editor-in-chief of asp.netPRO magazine. Readers may contact him at [email protected].