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 www.microsoft.com/web."
The Microsoft.com/web site takes users to a page touting Microsoft's WebMatrix tool suite. WebMatrix 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.