In DotNetNuke 1.X, the user interface of the application allowed for little personalization — essentially all DNN sites looked much the same, a negative restriction considering the highly creative environment of the World Wide Web. DotNetNuke 2.0 removed this restriction and opened the application to a whole new group of stakeholders: web designers. As the popularity of portal applications had increased in recent years, the ability for web designers to create rich, graphical user interfaces had diminished significantly. This is because the majority of portal applications were based on platforms that did not allow for clear separation between form and function, or were architected by developers who had little understanding of the creative needs of web designers. DotNetNuke 2.0 focused on this problem and implemented a solution where the portal environment and creative design process could be developed independently and then combined to produce a stunningly harmonious end-user experience. The process was not complicated and did not require the use of custom tools or methodologies. It did not take long before we began to see DotNetNuke sites with richly creative and highly graphical layouts emerge, proving the effectiveness of the solution and creating a “Can you top this?” community mentality for innovative and creative designs.
One of the large-scale enhancements that Microsoft insisted on for DotNetNuke 2.0 also proved to be popular. The Data Access Layer in DotNetNuke had been rearchitected using an abstract factory model that effectively allowed it to interface with any number of relational databases. Microsoft coined the term “provider model” and emphasized it as a key component in the future ASP.NET 2.0 framework. Therefore, getting a reference implementation of this pattern in use in ASP.NET 1.x had plenty of positive educational benefits for Microsoft and DotNetNuke developers. DotNetNuke 2.0 included both a fully functional SQL Server and MS Access version, and the community soon stepped forward with mySQL and Oracle implementations as well. Again, the extensibility benefits of good architecture were extremely obvious and demonstrated the direction we planned to pursue in all future product development.
Upon review of the DotNetNuke 2.0 code base, it was obvious that the application bore little resemblance to the original IBuySpy Portal application. This was a good thing because it raised the bar significantly in terms of n-tiered, object-oriented, enterprise-level software development. However, it was also bad in some ways because it alienated some of the early DotNetNuke enthusiasts who were in fact “hobby programmers,” using the application more as a learning tool than a professional product. This is an interesting paradigm to observe in many open source projects. In the early stages, the developer community drives the feature set and extensibility requirements that, in turn, results in a much higher level of sophistication in terms of system architecture and design. However, as time goes on, this can sometimes result in the application surpassing the technical capabilities of some of its early adopters. DotNetNuke had ballooned from 15,000 lines of managed code to 46,000 lines of managed code in a little more than six months. The project was getting large enough that it required some serious effort to understand its organizational structure, dependencies, and development patterns.
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Shaun Walker has 25+ years professional experience in architecting and implementing enterprise software solutions for private and public organizations. Shaun is the original creator of DotNetNuke, a Web Application Framework for ASP.NET which spawned the largest and most successful Open Source community project native to the Microsoft platform. Based on his significant community contributions he has been recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) as well as an ASPInsider for over consecutive 10 years. He was recognized by Business In Vancouver in 2011 as a leading entrepreneur in their Forty Under 40 business awards, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Outercurve Foundation, and is currently the Chairman of the Advisory Council for Microsoft's .NET Foundation. Shaun is currently a Practice Area Partner at Arrow Digital specializing in Innovation Technology.