April 9, 2012

Microsoft + ASP.NET + Open Source: This Time for Sure!

rocky-and-bullwinkleBullwinkle: Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat!”

Rocky: Again? That trick never works!”

Bullwinkle: This time for sure!”

In the last week or so, I’ve heard mixed reactions to Scott Hanselman’s eye-popping announcement that, in addition to ASP.NET MVC that is already open source, that Microsoft is releasing ASP.NET Web API and Razor as open source as well. Further, and this is the big deal:

Microsoft is going to take contributions on their open source ASP.NET components and ship those contributions in the box for future major releases.

Of course, this is big news on the face of it, but some folks aren’t convinced. Some more jaded members of the community look at the open sourcing of a Microsoft component as the beginning of the end for that component. Look at IronPython!” they say. That project was open sourced right before the team imploded.”

Another jaded point of voice is that Microsoft is open sourcing MVC so that they have a story when it’s killed: You can add features to it all you want,” they claim Microsoft will say.

The funny thing about all of those points of view is that I hear people complain all the time when Microsoft cancels something, I don’t care if they cancel my favorite project; just release the source to the community!” I find it ironic that when Microsoft does release the source for a dying project, people complain about that, too.

However, in this case, I don’t think that ASP.NET is going to be side-lined. In the previous cases, it was easy to see that Microsoft was moving on and to what, e.g. the C# dynamic keyword in the case of IronPython.

ASP.NET, on the other hand, is a huge part of the server-side story for Microsoft and MVC is clearly the thing they’re focusing on. It’s the common thread for custom servers for both UI and API on both Windows Server and the Cloud and a big focus in the tooling for VS11.

Further, Scott has a track record with making OSS work from Microsoft, including NuGet and the user contributions that it takes.

And finally, both Scott Hanselman and Phil Haack, respected, active community members, not only drove these projects but have endorsed them.

Those three things add up to Microsoft pulling the rabbit out of the hat for me.