Microsoft has just released Version 1 of WebMatrix. It's an interesting product that allows the beginner to create, edit and deploy a website in no time at all. The real question is - why?
Version 1 of Microsoft's WebMatrix is now available for you to play with. The beta was reported on back in July 2010 and the final version hasn't changed much.
WebMatrix is a web tool that lets the beginner create a web site and maintain it. Of course to do anything serious you probably have to move to Visual Studio and this is perhaps one of the reasons why Microsoft thought it worth creating WebMatrix.
There is also the small matter that ASP.NET hasn't ever really caught on with the average web creator. The reasons are that it is probably too complicated and almost certainly more expensive than the alternative free approaches based on PHP, for example.
WebMatrix attempts to make ASP.NET as easy and as cheap to use as the alternatives. You can download WebMatrix and it will automatically install the cut down IISExpress as a web server and SQL Compact as the database server. It also downloads a set of ASP.NET extensions that include the new Razor syntax. Razor allows the user to mix HTML and a .NET language in the same web in roughly the same way that you can mix HTML and PHP. From an architectural point of view this is almost certainly not a good thing but it does lower the bar to getting started.
When you first use WebMatrix you are offered a range of different types of site that can be constructed. What is really surprising and difficult to explain is that as well as ASP.NET based sites you can also create PHP-based open source websites - WordPress, Joomla and so on. It also supports some ASP.NET prepackaged sites such as DotNetNuke and Kentico CMS. What exactly the PHP sites are doing in WebMatrix has to be a mystery - as far as ASP.NET goes these are the enemy - but you can install and work with them just as easily.
Once set up an editor allows you to work with web pages in C#, VB or PHP and publish the result to the server with a single click. You can also deploy to a hosted site and for this WebMatrix offers you a selection of possible hosts. It even performs incremental updates from the development site to the deployed site.
I can think of no easier way to create, work with and deploy a website. Even bigger "professional" tools such as Visual Studio don't have some of the easy to use facilities that WebMatrix does and they don't support the range of choices of technology.
You can see why Microsoft has made the effort - it has succeeded in making ASP.NET with Razor much easier to use - the real question is why support PHP and the open source web applications?
Now we just have to wait to see if ASP.NET becomes the de facto server-side technology for the rest of us.
Webmatrix main site
Microsoft WebMatrix and Razor