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Joel on Software

Anonymous Response

by Joel Spolsky
Tuesday, July 25, 2000

An anonymous response from inside Microsoft on my article Microsoft Goes Bonkers writes:

It's not just you...many of us at MS don't even begin to understand what .NET is (and I even work on Passport, the shining example of a "web service"). Management spent nearly a year explaining how everyone needed to focus on NGWS and how we could all fit into the vision - without ever describing the goal. It was the proverbial answer in search of a question. All of a sudden it has a new name, seemingly an attempt to hide the fact that it still has no body. And to make things worse, they throw in a brand-new programming language which is really nothing more but a copy of java which is unfinished, hasn't been tested for five years, and lacks a large standard library.
I've asked around how this new .NET plan differs from everything we've been working on the past two years and haven't been given a decent answer.
"What's a web service?"
"Look at Passport! THAT'S a service!" (they love saying that one)
"You mean a web service is just another site that you visit that drops encrypted cookies on your machine?"
"No no no. It enables people to work together! It empowers companies to share information!"
"You mean it lets partners access information that _WE_ maintain in a central repository? How is that different from any other website?"
"We allow users to interact with the service! It's not a static vision of the web! It's a two-way collaboration!"
"You mean users fill out forms to create an account. And then we let them access it. What is new about that?"
The answers just kept getting more incomprehensible.
I don't think we know what .NET is. It is becoming all things to all people and the vision continues to grow. Every product that ships in the next two years seems to be added under the umbrella. I'm amazed more people haven't laid into us for being so vague. Perhaps .NET is nothing more than a hopeful solution to a deeper problem...a lack of focus in the company - a missing goal and rallying point. Unfortunately, we need a lot more than hand-waving right now.
Thanks for the intriguing posts!

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