Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rails and .Net Had One Thing in Common Before ASP.Net-MVC: Magic

It's possible now to build a very Rails-like website via ASP.Net MVC. And at RailsConf, John Lam showed IronRuby starting to run Rails.

But long before all this, these two very different platforms had one thing in common: "magic."

By magic, I mean the sort of implicit, we-solve-problems-you-didn't-even-know-you-had kind of magic that makes it easy for people who don't know the details, don't want to know the details, or know but don't want to be bothered by the details to build an app.

From ASP.Net's first iteration, where you could drop an item on a "web form," wire a server-side event handler, and talk to items on the page through a .Net server-side object interface, ASP.Net has been heavy on the magic. Rails has been the same way, from scaffolding up through ActiveRecord, you point Rails in the direction you want to go and it drives.

Of course we all know about the leaky abstractions... in .Net, you used to get some funky HTML and Javascript, plus a server-based page lifecycle that didn't always match the model of what you wanted to do with the DOM. In Rails, we've seen perf issues, and discussions of the "worst practices" [pdf] that can result from letting the autopilot do too much and your brain too little when writing for Rails.

But in any case -- as opposed to a framework like Django (which included a big feature push called 'removing the magic' to make functionality more explicit) -- Rails and .Net give you as much magic as they can.

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