Confronting .NET myths
.NET & Beyond: Confronting .NET myths<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By David Chappell
At my talks about .NET this year, I've been running into many of the same misconceptions. Since many of them revolve around Web services, I'd like to clear up some of the confusion out there. Here are my candidates for the top three myths about .NET and Web services:
1. .NET is only about Web services. People often tell me that since they don't want to build Web services right now, they don't need to use the .NET Framework. In fact, the .NET Framework supports all kinds of applications. It does contain first-rate support for building Web services, but it's also useful for creating many other kinds of software, including local Windows applications, conventional multitier browser applications and more.
This myth exists because Microsoft's .NET marketing message has been so focused on Web services. Perhaps this is an artifact of the company's obsession with promoting the newest thing, or maybe the marketing team decided its target audience would understand only one message. Since the .NET initiative is a diverse set of software, this singularity of focus distorts reality. .NET is about Web services, certainly, but it's also about many other things.
2. Anybody who's using Web services is .NET-compliant. I have no idea what it means to be ".NET-compliant," and I doubt anyone else does either. Yet I hear this phrase quite often. Although the core Web services technologies came largely from Microsoft, virtually every major vendor now supports them. In fact, Web services look like the best chance we have of linking software from different vendors into a coherent whole. That people associate Web services with .NET is probably a good thing for Microsoft, so perhaps that's a positive result of the company's very focused marketing message. But Web services needn't imply .NET.
It's no small irony that the technologies most likely to knit together our diverse world come largely from Microsoft. Who would have imagined this legendarily proprietary vendor would be the source of such critical multivendor standards? Nevertheless, Web services are no longer purely a Microsoft technology, and that's a good thing. By giving them to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Microsoft and the other companies behind Web services have made these technologies much more useful than they otherwise would have been.
3. Building applications on the .NET Framework requires using .NET My Services. .NET My Services is mostly a set of Web services that can store information about people, then allow applications to access that information. But .NET My Services also includes Passport, an Internet-based service for authenticating users. Some people, especially those who don't live in the U.S., are nervous about Passport. And since both it and the .NET Framework are part of .NET, these people tend to jump to the conclusion that using the .NET Framework also requires the use of Passport.
This is, of course, completely wrong. The .NET Framework and .NET My Services, including Passport, have almost nothing to do with each other. While the Framework is a good foundation for building applications that use .NET My Services, these services are explicitly designed to be accessible from non-Microsoft systems. In fact, one of the most visible demos for .NET My Services at Microsoft's 2001 Professional Developers Conference was written in Java and relied on Apache.
Microsoft is taking a big risk by grouping all of these diverse technologies under the .NET brand. Like any new and innovative technology, .NET My Services is not guaranteed to succeed. What happens if it fails, or simply takes a long time to find its customer base? This should have no impact on the success of the .NET Framework or other parts of .NET, yet a substantial segment of the market is unlikely to distinguish between these largely independent efforts. If any part of the .NET initiative fails to thrive, it's likely to damage other unrelated parts. Having a unified brand is good in many ways, but it's not without its pitfalls.
These are my top candidates for myths about .NET and Web services, but they're certainly not the only choices. As Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself" in Leaves of Grass, "I am large, I contain multitudes." .NET can be described in the same way.
If you have a favorite .NET myth, send it to me. Together, we can fight for clarity in this mass of new technology.
David Chappell is principal at Chappell & Associates, an education and consulting firm focused on enterprise software technologies. He can be reached via E-mail at email@example.com.