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Review: Building a Web 2.0 Portal with ASP.NET 3.5
by Jesudas Chinnathampi (Das)
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Web 2.0 seems to be the latest buzz. Omar AL Zabir, the author, is the CTO and co-founder of Pageflakes. Omar is also a Microsoft MVP. This book exposes the potential hidden in the Microsoft AJAX framework. Combined with ASP.NET Framework 3.5, building web 2.0 portals become easy enough. Widgets are the heart of any web 2.0 portal. Everything from building a small widget control to the difficulties associated in rendering a widget has been greatly analyzed in this book. For those who want to wet your hands, you are provided with a live working website named Throughout the book, you will find several examples which are based on real time web 2.0 portals, such as Pageflakes, Dropthings etc. Apart from explaining how to build a web 2.0 portal, Omar has explained many issues that he and his team faced when the Pageflakes was launched initially. He also provided in depth analysis in how they solved those issues. To visit the publisher’s (O’REILLY) website, please visit the following link.

Inside the Book

The book contains a total of 10 chapters. Chapter 1 gives a brief introduction about Web portals. It explains some pre-requisites for a website to be called a web 2.0 portal. This chapter provides a brief overview of what an AJAX web portal can do and what technologies are involved in making such a web site.

The second chapter narrates the architecture of a web portal and widgets. It is in this chapter the author explains how to build a widget, which is a primary building block of a web 2.0 portal. Another beauty of this chapter is that, apart from just explaining how to build a widget control, lots of explanation is charted about how to make that widget control perform better during the first visit by any user and the second visit by the same user. This chapter also compares the differences between server-side rendering and client-side rendering with examples. Finally, the chapter ends with a discussion about how to prevent Denial of Service attacks to a web site.

One of the key features of any web 2.0 portals is the drag and drop of widgets. In another words, the ability for the user to arrange the widgets in their home page by dragging and dropping the widget control. The third chapter contains some useful information regarding how to create a custom drag-and-drop extender. This chapter has a nice example regarding how to build a Flickr Photo Widget control. Chapter three concludes with a useful example about how to write a logout handler. Omar has explained why handlers are better than a regular .aspx page, which is worth a read.

Chapter four is entitled, “Building the Data and Business Layers Using .NET 3.5.” It would have been titled better, if they would have added “WF and LINQ” at the end. This chapter is totally based on how the data and business layers were built for the Dropthings portal. Chapter 5 explains how to create a LINQ to SQL class. If you want to know how to create a business layer using Windows Workflow foundation, you must read this chapter. Apart from learning how to make use of the Windows Workflow Foundation, you will also learn the advantages of using WF.

If your Server side widgets offer poor performance, you might want to take a look at how to create a client side Widget. Chapter 5 is all about building client side widgets. This is a very short chapter, but includes two well crafted examples, building a client side RSS Widget and a client side Flickr widget.

“Off-the-shelf AJAX Frameworks don’t solve all real-life problems, and new and unique challenges always come up every now and then. This chapter reviews several challengers posted by AJAX applications that must be resolved for high volume AJAX web sites.” That was the quote taken from the introduction of chapter 6. This chapter brings out many real time issues faced by the author while working with AJAX calls. Some examples include the advantages of combining multiple AJAX calls into one call, and timing and ordering AJAX calls to the server. I learned an important aspect from this chapter regarding the advantages of using HTTP GET calls as opposed to HTTP POST calls.

Chapter 7 illuminates the scalability challenger with Web Services. It further comments on how to modify the ASP.NET AJAX Framework to handle web service calls. If you want to know how to build your own web service handler which supports transactions, then chapter has a nice example and an in-depth analysis regarding how to achieve those.

The next two chapters talks about improving the performance of the web 2.0 portal. While chapter 8 explains improving the server side performance, chapter 9 discloses how to improve the client side performance. Again, many examples are being provided about how to handle the performance issues in real time.

Chapter 10 deciphers solving common deployment, hosting and production challenges that any web site might face. This is not for web 2.0 portal, but for any web site. Omar annotates his experience during the early phases of Pageflakes and the issues they faced. This chapter is a valuable one for anybody who cares how to run a website smoothly. Omar points out around thirteen production disasters that could happen to any website. Well, all these discussions are based on actual issues that Omar and his team faced while developing the Pageflakes website. And most important, the discussion includes the solution for all the issues that they faced.

Grab this book if you want to develop a web 2.0 portal today. You will get enormous information regarding not only how to build a web 2.0 portal, but how to solve some of the common issues that will show up during building a web site.  

About the Book


Building a Web 2.0 Portal with ASP.NET 3.5


Omar AL Zabir (CTO and co-founder of Pageflakes and a Microsoft MVP)




December 2007




US $44.99



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