A New Web for .NET

A number of things have been happening these last few years in the .NET community in relation to the Web. Specifically, OpenRasta and FubuMvc demonstrated 1) new approaches to web development in a static-typed world and 2) that other developers were growing tired of the existing options. Since then a host of new micro-frameworks, generally inspired by the Ruby dynamic duo of Rack and Sinatra, have popped up on github. In addition, several new server options have begun cropping up, most notably Kayak and Manos de Mono, both of which use an event loop a la node.js and primarily targeting Mono.

Microsoft has not be sitting idly by either. The WCF team is working on a new Web API to provide WCF developers simpler, more direct control over HTTP services. This is no slouch effort either. In fact, aside from OpenRasta, it may be the most thorough HTTP implementation available.

While exciting on their own, the best news, imho, is the .NET HTTP Abstractions group, started by Scott Koon. This group has been working on a standard, currently called Open Web Interface for .NET, or OWIN. It’s intent is to define a common interface by which any application can talk to any server. The idea comes from the Web Server Gateway Interface (Python) and Rack. The primary difference in this and other similar specs is the inclusion of asynchronous network I/O as a primary concern. Discussions are still underway and include nearly all of the developers of the aforementioned projects, as well as some members of the ASP.NET team.

If you are a F# fanboy, such as myself, you will be happy to know that F# is not silent in this space. WebSharper is now in its second iteration, and my own projects, Frack and Frank, are making nice headway. Frack is now a web server, similar in spirit to node.js. Frank is, as the name implies, a Sinatra-inspired clone that takes cues from the Haskell Snap framework. If you are interested in parsing and agent-based development, you’ll find more examples of how F# handles these things as these two projects progress.

Expect to find more posts (shock!) coming soon describing in more detail the WCF Web APIs, OWIN, Frack, Frank, and more. In the meantime, join the discussion on the .NET HTTP Abstractions group!