Personal Blog of Shaun Walker


IBuySpy for .NET Core

By Shaun Walker on 8/7/2020

I have been interviewed for a number of online shows and articles recently and in the process of sharing the details of my open source career, I realized that I always end up mentioning the IBuySpy Portal. Although the IBuySpy Portal was not a true open source project, it was a hugely influential application for the initial .NET ecosystem as it provided one of the first functional ASP.NET applications that developers could get their hands on.

IBuySpy Portal

Here is a relevant excerpt from the "Professional DotNetNuke" book series I participated on for WROX Press:

"Realizing the educational value of sample applications, Microsoft built a number of source projects that were released with the .NET Framework 1.0 Beta to encourage developers to cut their teeth on the new platform. These projects included full source code and a liberal End User License Agreement (EULA), which provided nearly unrestricted usage. One of these applications was the IBuySpy Portal.

Microsoft co-developed the IBuySpy Portal with Vertigo Software and promoted it as a "best practice" example for building applications in the new ASP.NET environment. There are even rumors that the legend Scott Guthrie himself even had a hand in helping writing the code. Despite its obvious shortcomings, the IBuySpy Portal had some strong similarities to both the Microsoft SharePoint Portal, Content Management Server, as well as other open source CMS applications on the Linux/Apache/mySQL/PHP (LAMP) platform.

The portal allowed you to create a completely dynamic website consisting of an unlimited number of virtual "tabs" (pages). Each page had a standard header and three content panes - a left pane, middle pane, and right pane (a standard layout for most portal sites). Within these panes, the administrator could dynamically inject "modules" - essentially mini-applications for managing specific types of web content."

The IBuySpy Portal cultivated a massive community of developers resulting in hundreds of custom applications that were built on top of the IBuySpy Portal foundation. It also spawned a variety of open source projects, including DotNetNuke, Rainbow Portal, MojoPortal, MonoX, and many more. From my perspective, it is fairly safe to say that the IBuySpy Portal played a crucial role in the rapid adoption and growth of ASP.NET technology.

Which actually leads me to a topic that I find quite confusing... despite all of the amazing work Microsoft has done in recent years to modernize its development platform and influence the ecosystem away from the legacy .NET Framework and towards .NET Core, why is there not an "IBuySpy for .NET Core"?

In fact, back in 2017, I actually created a presentation related to this observation which I shared with some folks from Microsoft. In the presentation I pointed out that frameworks are one of the primary drivers of platform adoption and there are plenty of reference examples on other platforms ( ie. Spring, Rails, Django, Symfony, etc... ). However there were none for .NET Core. And although some people did seem to be receptive to this message, it was clearly not a strategic priority at that time.

Fast forward to today and in typical open source fashion there are a number of options which have emerged to fill this gap. Orchard Core has now reached an RC designation after 5 years of development and the official 1.0 version should be released next month. In addition, I decided my best course of action was to invest my time in writing code rather than creating presentations, and I released a new framework named Oqtane in May 2020 - an open source modular application framework for Blazor which borrows many concepts from DotNetNuke... as well as, you guessed it... the IBuySpy Portal ;)

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 Oqtane and DotNetNuke, web application frameworks which have cultivated the largest and most successful Open Source community projects native to the Microsoft platform. He was one of the original founders of DNN Corp, a commercial software company providing products, services, and technical support for DotNetNuke, which raised 3 rounds of venture capital from top tier Silicon Valley investors. Based on his significant community contributions he has been recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) as well as an ASPInsider for over 10 consecutive years. He was recognized by Business In Vancouver 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 Chair of the Project Committee for Microsoft's .NET Foundation. Shaun is currently a Technical Director and Enterprise Guildmaster at Cognizant Softvision.