Back in 2003, Microsoft had a plan to attract Web site developers to the Microsoft platform with a skunkworks project called WebMatrix. On July 7, 2010, Microsoft brought back that discontinued effort, via the introduction of a new tool suite known as WebMatrix.
Microsoft is making available for download a first beta of the new WebMatrix as of today. The plan -- if feedback is positive -- is to release the final version before the end of this calendar year.
Scott Guthrie, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's .Net Developer Platform, previewed last week a few of the tools that are part of the WebMatrix suite. These include a lightweight version of Microsoft's IIS Web Server, known as IIS Express; an updated version of SQL Server Compact Edition; and a new "view-engine option" for ASP.Net, known as "Razor," which enables developers to embed Visual Basic or C# within HTML.
WebMatrix is more than the sum of these parts, however. Like the original WebMatrix, it's a light-weight Web development tool, with accompanying samples and documentation, in its own right. The new WebMatrix also integrates with Microsoft's open-source Web Gallery, plus a reference tool for finding potential hosting partners for sites the WebMatrix developers build.
According to a new July 6 Microsoft Web Platform Team Blog post, WebMatrix is a 15 MB download (50 MB for those who don't already have .Net 4 installed). It can be installed side-by-side with Visual Studio 2010 and/or Visual Web Developer 2010 Express.
The goal of WebMatrix, according to its developers, is "to make it really easy to get started with web development." The new tool "minimizes the number of concepts someone needs to learn in order to get simple things done, and includes and integrates all of the pieces necessary to quickly build Web sites," the blog said.
Brian Goldfarb, Microsoft Director of Developer Platform Marketing, said Microsoft has been gathering feedback since it discontinued the original WebMatrix via focus groups comprised of members of the open-source community, students, hobbyists and more. The goal of the tool is to make it easy for Web developers -- whether they already are using Microsoft tools and technologies, or tools like PHP, MySQL and other open-source ones -- to acquire, configure and customize the components they need to build basic Web sites. The IIS Express, SQL Server Compact Edition and Razor technologies are all included, but all optional, Goldfarb emphasized.
The original ASP.Net WebMatrix was end-of-lifed in 2003, but the feedback from that project influenced the new WebMatrix, Goldfarb said. Unlike the original, "this (WebMatrix) is a fully supported Microsoft product," he said.
Microsoft is making the new WebMatrix available for download and installation using the company's Web Platform Installer.
What's your take? Has the new Microsoft WebMatrix got the right stuff to attract newbie Web developers (even for those who prefer developing with open-source technologies)? Why/why not?