Should we fear Webmatrix?

A post on Codebetter this morning about Webmatrix opined that Microsoft is lost because they’re pursuing Webmatrix when they should be pursuing the high-end developer market.

Webmatrix is an all-in-one environment that lets a new developer make websites using the Microsoft .NET stack.  Pre Webmatrix, if you wanted a website, you had to do the following:

  1. Download whichever web framework you wanted to use (ASP.NET MVC comes to mind).
  2. Install and configure SQL Server (or whatever database you wanted to use) so you could start local development.
  3. Configure the website to use the Database; and if you wanted to use a membership provider, dive down into the command line and remember the difference between -dd and -dt
  4. Set up IIS to publish the site to, and hope like hell you don’t have any weird ASP.NET MVC/IIS issues.
  5. Develop, Compile, Test, Pray (The Pray part is hoping you have the right permissions).
  6. Deploy it to shared hosting (most likely), and hope like hell you don’t have to go through steps 3-5 again in an environment you don’t control (I’m looking at you, GoDaddy)).

If I had known how painful it was to do that, I probably would have skipped Microsoft and went to another (free) stack as well. There are easily 10 hours in the time it takes to do all that for the first time (including research).  10 hours! 

For a new developer, The pain isn’t worth it.  That makes it even worse for someone who just wants a website, and doesn’t develop software for a living. This isn’t Xbox, there are no achievements and badges you get for doing this right, just the hope that you remember the deployment problems the next time you encounter them so you don’t spend as much time on it.  Do you think anyone outside of the software world wants to spend their time debugging permissions issues in IIS?

Microsoft has always had trouble in the ‘Get it working out of the box with no special futzing’ arena. This is their attempt to rectify those mistakes. 

I haven’t used Webmatrix, but from what I’ve heard it does a good job at alleviating the problems I listed, and that’s exactly what the Microsoft community needs right now.  The veterans don’t need it, but if you’re going to continue to throw money at a platform, you need to be sure that people will quickly choose that platform. If I had to guess I’d say this is Microsoft’s attempt to take some marketshare away from those frameworks and CMSs that make it trivially simple to set up a new site. 

Webmatrix can only help spread adoption of the .NET technology stack, and that’s a Good Thing™. We’re not at the point yet where it’s easy to build a WordPress replacement because we haven’t solved the deployment problem.

Kudos to Microsoft for seeing the issue and at least trying to fix it.



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