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ASP.NET and HTML - Past, Present, Future

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yesterday, I was giving an AJAX facelift to some old, old .aspx files. These files were created in the first version of Visual Studio.NET and have been running smoothly for years. Inside I found:

<meta content="Microsoft Visual Studio 7.0" name="GENERATOR">
meta content="C#" name="CODE_LANGUAGE">
meta content="JavaScript" name="vs_defaultClientScript">
meta content="http://schemas.microsoft.com/intellisense/ie5"


<body MS_POSITIONING="GridLayout">


ASP.NET has come a long way since the days when MS_POSITIONING appeared. GridLayout meant that every control dropped on the form used absolute positioning by default. GridLayout was a thrill for new web developers who came from a VB6 background, but the feature didn't fly so well with anyone who took HTML seriously.

Ironically, Microsoft's web tools are now closer to the metal than they've ever been. The VS2005 editor is XHTML-compliant. The CSS Friendly Control Adapters can customize a control's HTML output. This trend continues in Orcas where the split screen view (see a screen shot in ScottGu's post) keeps the web form designer and the HTML editor on screen at the same time.

I think it's safe to say we aren't abstracting HTML away anytime soon. While it's OK to hide XmlHttpRequests and client side event handling behind frameworks and script libraries, everyone wants to see, feel, touch, and taste the HTML.