Microsoft shutters its WebSiteSpark developer program

Microsoft shutters its WebSiteSpark developer program

Summary: Microsoft is discontinuing a program it launched three years ago aimed at getting more Web developers to use its Expression and other development tools.


Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is phasing out its WebSiteSpark Web developer program, as some participants discovered when they received email messages from Microsoft about its end on March 12.


Microsoft launched the WebSiteSpark program in 2009. It was aimed at getting more Web developers to use Microsoft's Expression and other development tools.

According to the WebSiteSpark site, there will be a way for users to retain access to their WebSiteSpark benefits through March of 2014.

Microsoft's WebSiteSpark site is now defaulting to this message:

"Thank you for your interest in the WebsiteSpark program. Based on the changing needs of web developers, Microsoft has created new offers at no cost to help Web Pros like you continue to create rich interactive web applications. These resources are designed to help you design, develop, publish, and deploy world class websites.

"Since Microsoft is making these powerful new resources available to you without cost, the WebsiteSpark program will no longer be accepting new membership applications.

"To learn more about the many resources available to you, please visit"

The site takes users to a page touting Microsoft's WebMatrix tool suiteWebMatrix is a bundle of tools designed to allow developers to quickly install and publish open-source applications or built-in templates to create, publish and maintain their Web sites. Included in the bundle are a Web server, database engines, various programming languages and more. It is aimed at developers using ASP.Net, PHP, Node.js and/or HTML5.

Microsoft has pared back on its design-tool focus, acknowledging late last year plans to phase out entirely its Expression Design and Expression Web tools. It is bundling Expression Blend with Visual Studio.

Elliot Sandell (@ellsandell), who first notified me of the WebSiteSpark discontinuation, tweeted that he is "kind of annoyed that I will be losing the Azure offer and access to pretty much all the paid tools past next year (Win Server/Expression/Visual Studio Pro). WebMatrix is okay would like to see more development."

Besides the Expression tools, WebSiteSpark members got access to Visual Studio Professional, SQL Server Web Edition, Windows Web Server and WebMatrix. Members also received Windows Azure resources for deploying their sites to Microsoft's cloud.

Microsoft's other "Spark" programs, like DreamSpark, which is aimed at student developers; BizSpark, which is targeted at startups; and YouthSpark, which is a youth outreach program, all seem to be continuing on.

Topics: Web development, Microsoft, Software Development


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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  • BizSpark is a huge benefit

    Glad they're not doing away with that. The MSDN and Azure benefits provided with BizSpark are tremendous.
  • Not surprising

    Expression is ending, and there are other Spark programs available from Microsoft that cover the development routes.

    It seems to me that software vendors are moving to HTML5, but aren't doing anything for design - it's all coding. The problem with this approach is that graphic designers that are just graduating have no necessary skills for forward-looking web design houses. There is a real disconnect between software/web design and graphic design where they should be synonymous.
  • Cancellations like this make developers wary of developing for MS platforms

    The biggest impact of Microsoft killing Silverlight and XNA was losing the trust of thousands of developers who had been won over by the technology. I work in a decidedly java shop (the technical wing of an organization with over 14 million members). I, with the help of some other .Net fans, were able to convince management to do several projects in .Net and Silverlight. Because of that effort we eventually formed four large teams doing .Net and Silverlight, spanning about three dozen developers plus even more testers, PMs, etc. Many of those developers had never done .Net before and could be considered "converts." When Microsoft pulled support for Silverlight and announced no more versions everyone jumped ship. Of all those developers, guess who still uses Microsoft tools today? Pretty much just me.

    The sad thing is it didn't have to happen that way. Our company was talking about making Windows Phone and WinRT apps. All that went away with Silverlight and we still don't have a WP8 or WinRT presence AT ALL. Not one single app for those platforms and no plans to make any. As I said, I work for an org with over 14 million members so it was a major loss. Killing products and programs kills developer enthusiasm and corporate trust in your platform.
  • Are Microsoft giving up on Expression now

    Microsoft seemed to have lost interest in Expression Blend. Just another Technology fad that Microsoft has lost faith in. Developers and Designers just see Microsoft meandering around with no clear commitment or direction. They seemed to have lost confidecne in their own technology base.
    • Blend ...

      ... is being integrated into Visual Studio.
      • Re: ... is being integrated into Visual Studio.

        So it has not yet been integrated? Is that how you do things: abandon a product now, and promise a future replacement somewhere down the line? How are customers supposed to get their work done in the meantime?
        • RE: Re: ... is being integrated into Visual Studio.

          Blend for Visual Studio is included with VS 2012.
          Michael McGovern
  • Massive cost increase

    I took a hosting deal based on website spark which included licensing for Windows server and Sql Server Web Edition, which now are becoming chargeable licensing! So this is now going to add £39 monthly to the hosting cost on top of the server! Not happy bunny....
    Carl White