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The Lab Experiment

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Windows Template Library (WTL) first appeared in the Platform SDK in 1999 I believe, and many Windows programmers latched on to WTL as a lightweight and aesthetic alternative to MFC for building GUIs with C++.

About 4 years ago I was at an after hours conference event where someone asked Tony Goodhew about WTL. Tony was, I believe, a PM for VC++ at the time and the response surprised me. WTL, he said, was “an experiment that escaped from the lab” – something to that effect. He then continued to tell everyone not to use WTL. Not in the “use at your own risk this is unsupported” sense but in a “do not use this because I find it very irritating, and it will be destroyed…” sense.

I’m sure there is a story behind his comments, but even after a couple beers it wasn’t forthcoming. In any case, WTL is the second chunk of Microsoft code to reach SourceForge, where presumably it is now safe from Tony.

Tony’s other irritation that evening was the Remote Object Proxy Engine –ROPE. ROPE was part of the unsupported SOAP toolkit version 1. SOAP on a ROPE sounded cute, but didn’t exactly project a professional image. ROPE didn’t make it to V2. I had fond versions of the early toolkit, because I managed to get a client’s J2EE environment working with my company’s COM+ components pretty quickly, even though we both had early toolkits from Microsoft and Apache which did not implement all of the SOAP encoding specifications.

Come to think of it – I wonder if the person who came up with the name for ROPE also came up with the name for SOAPSUDS. If I remember correctly, Don Box declared ROPE flawed, and now SOAPSUDS dead.