Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: CXO, Browser, Microsoft
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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?

Topics: CXO, Browser, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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33 comments
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  • Love it

    As a lightweight web editor I think it functions well, looks fantastic and is very easy to use. They need to start including it as a competitor to iWeb. Also, I think it needs a built-in FTP client.
    rjohn05
    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool sui

      @rjohn05

      It has built in FTP, sFTP and WebDeploy deployment.
      lmoroney
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      • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

        Not to late , not to soon. Thanks , it was great.
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    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

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  • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

    A little late to the party!
    gtdworak
    • late to the party?

      Hi. Curious what else you think is earlier to the party, in terms of a suite of tools for non-professional Web developers? Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

      @gtdworak never is too late.
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  • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

    Hosted services with web based creation tools target the non-professional - there are many of those if you do a google search. What non-professional wants to find a Windows server hosting provider, install .NET, install WebMatrix, and then write their application? A Windows VM or dedicated Windows server is expensive for a non-professional. It appears the only customers giving Microsoft feedback are stuck back in year 2000.
    MobileUser2011
    • $4/month is expensive for you?

      @MobileUser2011
      Plenty of non-professional developers are using ASP.NET (in addition to the vast number using it professionally).

      Windows hosting for your ASP.NET will set you back less than $4 per month on GoDaddy. And that includes SQL Server, MySQL, Access (Jet) and a number of composable components.

      Yes, dedicated servers or a VM will be more costly. But please do tell us how many non-professional developers will use a dedicated server? Your comment makes no sense.
      honeymonster
      • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

        @honeymonster

        GoDaddy only offers .NET 3.5 and earlier. The Non-Professional will need a dedicated server or VM to install Microsoft's special components in this package including .NET 4 and IIS Express. Yes, it makes no sense to me that a non-pro would get a VM or dedicated server either - but it seems to be the only way one can use WebMatrix tool suite. I'm sure you will tell me I don't need IIS Express if I have IIS but figuring that out isn't making anything easier.

        WebMatrix's goal is to make it really easy to do web development (using Microsoft technologies). It would be far better if Microsoft "launched" a GoDaddy URL that allowed me to sign up for a "Microsoft WebMatrix" hosted option for $4 / month. I shouldn't have to find a hoster with a Windows server, install 50MB of software on it, and hope it works.
        MobileUser2011
    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

      @MobileUser2011 Since this is still beta and released for less than a day, you didn't expect GoDaddy to retool for it already did you?
      JustAITGuy
  • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

    Looks great... I am please to see VB is still supported as it is my language of choice! I already use VS2010 so this won't be of value to me but great to see it available.
    ClickHouse
  • Unremarkable

    *yawn*

    when you're excited about tooling, something is wrong...
    gfmurphy
    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

      @gfmurphy
      yes especially when the tool is the reason why you have a 6 figure salary but thats just me. I'll just yawn away.
      rengek
  • Frontpage reloaded...

    ...seriously, who are they kidding? And with all the DIY CMS systems out there that accomplish all tihs rudimentary stuff why are they bothering?

    Also-- why are they bringing back what is essentially classic ASP (vis a vis C#/VB.NET embedded in HTML)?
    kckn4fun
  • Lack of focus

    Microsoft has a history of following trends, abandoning products and not succeeding. As for attracting newbie web developers, good luck. Wordpress is much more friendly to newbies and very flexible. I prefer a syntax highlighting text editor for my work, Editpad or Notepad++, no bloat there.
    bpunk88
  • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

    I guess I am the only person who misses FrontPage. It was as easy to use as Word, manged a complete site and all its links, made special features easy through "bots" and generally didn't get in the way of making a nice web site. OK, it didn't follow all the standards and it put a lot of code in the pages that HTML jocks got upset about, but HTML jocks could stick to NotePad if they wanted to. Why isn't there something as simple as FrontPage anymore? (Yes, I use Dreamweaver now. It's not the same.)
    JoeFoerster
    • RE: Microsoft takes aim again at Web developers with new WebMatrix tool suite

      @JoeFoerster You're not the only person who misses FrontPage. Not only did I use it, but I installed and supported FrontPage Extensions on UNIX/Solaris so that others could use the FrontPage client on Windows to build websites hosted on UNIX. It provided a lot of value.
      Spatha