About Technical Debates (and ASP.NET Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC debates in particular)
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by Scott Guthrie
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Some Comments Specific to ASP.NET Web Forms / ASP.NET MVC debates:

Below are a few comments specific to some of the recent debates that I’ve seen going around within the community as to whether a ASP.NET Web Forms or ASP.NET MVC based approach is best:

a) Web Forms and MVC are two approaches for building ASP.NET apps. They are both good choices. Each can be the “best choice” for a particular solution depending on the requirements of the application and the background of the team members involved. You can build great apps with either.  You can build bad apps with either. You are not a good or bad developer depending on what you choose. You can be absolutely great or worthless using both.

b) The ASP.NET and Visual Studio teams are investing heavily in both Web Forms and MVC.  Neither is going away.  Both have major releases coming in the months ahead.  ASP.NET 4 includes major updates to Web Forms (clean ClientIDs and CSS based markup output, smaller ViewState, URL Routing, new data and charting controls, new dynamic data features, new SEO APIs, new VS designer and project improvements, etc, etc).  ASP.NET 4 will also ship with ASP.NET MVC 2 which also includes major updates (strongly typed helpers, model validation, areas, better scaffolding, Async support, more helper APIs, etc, etc).  Don’t angst about either being a dead-end or something you have to change to.  I suspect that long after we are all dead and gone there will be servers somewhere on the Internet still running both ASP.NET Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC based apps.

c) Web Forms and MVC share far more code/infrastructure/APIs than anyone on either side of any debate about them ever mentions - Authentication, Authorization, Membership, Roles, URL Routing, Caching, Session State, Profiles, Configuration, Compilation, .aspx pages, .master files, .ascx files, Global.asax, Request/Response/Cookie APIs, Health Monitoring, Process Model, Tracing, Deployment, AJAX, etc, etc, etc.  All of that common stuff you learn is equally valid regardless of how you construct your UI.  Going forward we’ll continue to invest heavily in building core ASP.NET features that work for both Web Forms and MVC (like the URL Routing, Deployment, Output Caching, and DataAnnotations for Validation features we are adding with ASP.NET 4). 

d) I often find debates around programming model appropriateness and abstractions a little silly. Both Web Forms and MVC are programming web framework abstractions, built on top of a broader framework abstraction, programmed with higher level programming languages, running on top of a execution engine abstraction that itself is running on top of a giant abstraction called an OS.  What you are creating with each is HTML/CSS/JavaScript (all abstractions persisted as text, transmitted over HTTP – another higher level protocol abstraction). 

The interesting question to debate is not whether abstractions are good or not – but rather which abstractions feels most natural to you, and which map best to the requirements/scenarios/developers of your project.

e) We are about to do a pretty major update to the www.asp.net site.  As part of that we will be posting more end to end tutorials/content (for both Web Forms and MVC).  We will also be providing tutorials and guidance that will help developers quickly evaluate both the Web Forms and MVC approach, easily learn the basics about how both work, and quickly determine which one feels best for them to use. This will make it easy for developers new to ASP.NET, as well as developers who already know either Web Forms or MVC, to understand and evaluate the two approaches and decide which they want to use.

f) Decide on a project about whether you want to use Web Forms or MVC and feel good about it.  Both can be good choices.  Respect the choices other people make – the choice they have made is also hopefully a good one that works well for them.  Keep in mind that in all likelihood they know a lot more about their own business/skills than you do.  Likewise you hopefully know a lot more about your own business/skills than they do.

g) Share ideas and best practices with others.  That is a big part of what blogs, forums, listservs and community is all about.  What makes them work great is when people know that their ideas aren’t going to be ripped to shreds, and that they will be treated with respect.  Be constructive, not snarky. Teach, don’t lecture. Remember there is always someone else out there who you can also learn from.

Hope this helps,


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