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Is That a Runtime in Your Browser?

Posted in ASP.Net/Web Services | Avanade | .NET | WPF at Thursday, 24 August 2006 03:37 Pacific Daylight Time

In my life as a developer I have somehow never been on a project where I was creating a windows forms application (or a VB6 UI for that matter) AFAIR. Somehow I was always doing either ASP, ASP.NET, or some backend application with no real UI. My current project is different in that it is a smart client application. However, the client really wants to use WPF for the UI.

The more I understand WPF, the more I feel like I'm building a web application more than a forms application. The UI is all based on markup and you have databinding that seems very ASP.Net like. The line is blurred even more when you add in XBAPs which means you can run the WPF directly in the browser. However, WPF application development seems to blast past ASP.NET development at this point.

On my last project I built a really simple management UI using ASP.Net and Atlas. As much as Atlas tries to integrate AJAX into ASP.Net, I still felt like I was back in my ASP spaghetti code days. Kyle Huntley, a fellow Avanuat, makes a similar observation:

Atlas / Ajax does not represent any “Best Practices” in development from a purely technical standpoint; there are better ways to do it all. It is the unfortunate reality that the industry has been unable to settle on a single well-conceived runtime environment and has instead taken a drunkard’s walk to arrive at a very unappealing, but relatively standard, programming environment. Ajax is simply a way of trying to paper over the “poor” client characteristics of the browser / markup technology rootstock.

WPF can give you a richer experience than AJAX and without all the spaghetti mess. As another fellow Avanuat TSHAK says:

In the midst of all of the hype around the cool hacks that you can with a web browser, it is important not to ignore the innovation happening around application development on the Windows platform.

I definitely agree that WPF is taking us in the right direction and gives us a much cleaner development story than ASP.NET/Ajax. However, you might not have the option of assuming .NET 3.0 on the client for quite some time. But if you do have control over what is on the client, then WPF is a great choice for smart client applications (or is it a rich client?). Then you have the choice of running in the browser or not which gives you lots of great options.

So I personally think the runtime is the way to go, whether or not you run it in the browser. Now it is just a question of how well Microsoft drives WPF adoption and how Microsoft developers adapt to this new paradigm of client UI development.

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"Snooping WPF" (Bryant Likes's Blog) [Trackback]
Thursday, 24 August 2006 08:32:20 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
Great post Bryant - you're right, building applications that don't have to deal with the browser issues is awesome. It's a big shift in how web apps will be built.
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