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Solving the Hard Things

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things. – Phil Karlton

This is one of my favorite quotes regarding computer science. Currently I find myself facing a challenge that involves both of these issues – Is DNN 7.5 the right name for the next major release of DNN? If we change the name how do we invalidate everyone's "internal memory cache" so that we don't cause confusion?

Let me tackle the first challenge. Several months back, we began looking at where .Net was headed. Microsoft was increasingly talking about ASP.Net vNext, which they subsequently named ASP.Net 5. They did this to signal that ASP.Net 5 would be a substantial change from the existing ASP.Net 4.5 which was released in 2012. When I laid out the roadmap for where we wanted to go with DNN in 2015, I identified two substantial releases – one focused on the existing Web Forms based version of DNN (DNN 7.5), and one focused on an ASP.Net 5 (running the CoreCLR) version of DNN (DNN neXt).

As we have been digging into the work for DNN 7.5 we are finding that the name does not sufficiently capture the full scope of the changes we are making. DNN 7.5 is a significant advancement over the previous DNN 7 releases. Not only are we adding significant new features to the platform, but we are also fundamentally changing how the platform is architected, packaged and distributed.

New Features

I am really excited about many of the new features we are adding to the upcoming release. One of the biggest features is the addition of support for ASP.Net MVC. We have had many customers and developers ask us for this feature and I am glad that it will now be available in the platform. You can read more about this in the recent CTP 1 announcement.

While MVC was the more challenging feature to implement, we have also added support for creating Single Page Application (SPA) style modules. These modules essentially allow you to package up html files, JavaScript and CSS along with a Web API service into a single module. This approach allows you to avoid the MVC vs Web Forms question altogether. SPA modules don't force you to use any specific SPA framework but instead give the developer complete autonomy to do what is best for their module and their customers. Support for creating SPA modules will be available in CTP 2 which will be released in April.

In addition to new module types, we are also adding a whole new module and the supporting APIs to the DNN Platform. One of the earliest modules included with DNN was the User Defined Table (UDT) module. This module has gone through a lot of changes over the years and is now known as the Form & List module. In addition to the Form and List module, there are numerous other content modules available for DNN like 2SXC. This type of functionality is a core feature in many Content Management Systems, and as a result we have decided to build the Dynamic Content Creator framework and modules for distribution as a standard part of DNN.

In talking with many marketing users, we have found that providing freeform rich text editors is not always an optimal experience for users. While developers don't mind dropping down into HTML to fix the occasional rendering problem, this is not a great experience for business users. The dynamic content creator allows the content manager to break down content into smaller bits of structured content (a title, an image, a date, a paragraph of text, etc.), which can then be formatted and displayed using a standard template.  This allows content editors to focus on the actual content and not on the HTML and CSS to make the content look nice.

The Dynamic Content Creator module will expose core APIs which can be used to manage and display dynamic content. This framework builds on the work we have done for ContentItems so it will have versioning and workflow support on day 1. I am really looking forward to seeing how the community uses and extends this new feature.

Platform Enhancements

In 2012, we released the Web Service Framework as part of DNN 6.2. That framework was always intended to be the first step in delivering a secure REST API for managing your DNN installation. Since that time, developers have also been asking for a way to write their own secure web services that are accessible from external applications and websites. In the upcoming release we will finally deliver on both these promises.

In CTP 2 & 3, we will deliver both HMAC and OAuth 2 based authentication for web services. Each authentication type covers different scenarios and will ensure that developers can create secure web services that best suit their desired usage. HMAC works securely over HTTP connections but requires end users to create an API Key and API Secret for their account. OAuth 2 requires an HTTPS connection but doesn't require any special configuration of the user's account. With these two authentication options I am confident developers will have a solution that meets their needs for creating secure web services.

In DNN 7.4 we added a new workflow API to the core platform. In the upcoming release we'll complete our work and add a new Workflow manager to the platform. The workflow manager will allow specified roles to create and edit workflows including specifying roles and users with approval authority. These features have long been available in Evoq Content and with this release, this capability will now be available in the DNN Platform.

For the last decade we have referred to DNN as both a Web Application Framework and as a Content Management System. Due to the way DNN has historically been packaged, we often had to compromise on both fronts. People who just wanted a framework were forced to install all of the CMS features, even if they were unneeded and unused. Conversely, CMS users often had to download and install additional extensions to fully satisfy their content management requirements.

In the upcoming release we will separate many of the CMS features from the underlying platform. The platform will provide some minimal UI along with the core platform API. Users who desire a full featured CMS will be able to download the standard pre-packaged CMS distribution, or even a customized community distribution that is better suited to their particular needs. Since the administrative modules will be packaged separately, you'll even be able to swap out individual admin modules for a completely customized installation.

Announcing DNN 8.0

These features and enhancements are just a few of many changes we have planned for the upcoming release. It is clear with all of these enhancements that the DNN 7.5 name does not adequately convey the full scope of the changes we are making. I am happy to announce that we have decided to change the name to DNN 8.0.

Changing the name is not just about signaling the size and scope of the upcoming changes, but it is also a signal of our ongoing commitment to the DNN Platform. Later this year Microsoft will be releasing the new ASP.Net 5 platform. This release is a complete rewrite of the existing ASP.Net MVC, WebAPI and SignalR frameworks. There are a lot of great features coming in ASP.Net 5 and I think it is important that DNN users have options for staying with the current web forms based platform or moving to a newer platform that fully embraces ASP.Net 5.

This spring and summer you will begin to see more community discussions around what this new platform version looks like, what features it carries over from the existing platform and what new capabilities it provides. Even as we begin detailing our plans and efforts for ASP.Net 5, it is important that our existing DNN users understand what this means for the existing platform.

DNN 8 will not be the last major release of the Web Forms based DNN Platform, but rather the continuation of a platform that we expect to support for years to come. Ultimately, DNN Corp will continue to support DNN 8 and the Web Forms based platform for as long as the community finds value in the platform and is willing to work with DNN Corp. to maintain and enhance the platform.

As Phil Karlton points out, naming is hard. Hopefully, with this change we have a name that is more indicative of what we'll be releasing with DNN 8. Now if everyone would kindly disregard that we ever called it DNN 7.5 and we'll have solved both hard problems.




Ernst Peter Tamminga
Great blog post. DNN rules!
Ernst Peter Tamminga Wednesday, April 01, 2015 2:31 PM (link)
Tony Henrich
Lots of new stuff. Exciting news. Please make sure the API reference file and online technical developer documentation are beefy. This has been a weakness in DNN forever. For example all classes and their members (public methods and properties) should have a description and what they are used for. The wiki needs a major face lift. Needs a better table of contents. The wiki search is broken. I get a 500 Internal server error. This helps developers create more and better modules and themes. With the new MVC and SPA modules, we really need good documentation because these are new stuff. Existing books, blogs, forums do not include them... yet.
Tony Henrich Wednesday, April 01, 2015 5:55 PM (link)
Exciting times ahead!

Can't wait for OAuth server support CTP... I guess it's rude to ask for ETA? ;-)
rudgr Friday, April 03, 2015 2:58 AM (link)
Jan Jonas
Great news! Looking forward to see DNN 8 in action.

One suggestion: Shouldn't you rename the 7.5.0 CTP 1 release (see to 8.0.0 CTP 1?
Jan Jonas Friday, April 03, 2015 4:43 AM (link)
Vlastimil Waic
Separation of CMS functions from the platform? And even admin functions? Unfortunately there rings an alarm for me. I would not be the only one to remember neglected modules distributed with DNN but not part of the core and years outdated. I'm afraid this exactly will be the fate of CMS modules. That in time the Platform will only be a crowdsourced open-source betatesting ground for insanely overpriced Evoq without any significant development on the free CMS side. Please forgive me for not being enthusiastic about DNNSW's changes, but I don't think the community really had any significant benefit of it so far (unless we count that DNN free version was hidden in the community menu under Download section to be harder to find and possibly A LOT of spam (no my CMS vendor was not yet acquired, actually I'm more and more inclined to think that it should have been now)). DNN is unfortunately moving from being a great free Windows + SQL platform CMS to being a mysterious paid framework for developers. It's sad to see for example Project Nami to be faster, with more frequent updates, community bigger to not even comparable extent, thousands of free modules and templates etc. and still trying to sell DNN just because of brand loyalty (and it's selling bad to be honest). Actually what I think happened during last year's DNNSW's "reforms" was that DNNSW cherrypicked the most active people from the community seemingly supporting the community voice, but actually not doing anything about the perception of the product by the rest of the community. And I have to admit, I've been excited about these changes at first, I was hoping for DNN to be resurrected somehow, for enlarging the community, in my dreams I actually hoped for a significant reduction of Evoq price (to maybe 250 dollars instead of 25 000)... Instead of this what we're actually getting is nothing that will only lead to more and more companies to leave DNN and focus on cheaper platforms (in terms of hosting, development etc...). There's a difference for the client to have WordPress website set up in hours for virtually free and to wait and pay for months to develop DNN template or module which already exists for Joomla or Wordpress and is free. Makes me sad. DNN still is the best .NET+MSSQL CMS out there (it has small but at least it has a community), but it's benefits have no weight compared to more expensive implementation, hosting and development. It actually sells that bad I only used it for private or donated projects lately (and lately means in over a year). It's probably the right time to swallow my Microsoft & DNN fanboyism and start selling Joomla.
Vlastimil Waic Friday, April 03, 2015 6:22 AM (link)
2sic Daniel Mettler
This sounds like great news. Just to clarify something: DNN 8 will in this case still run on the full .net 4+ and NOT on the new core CLR, is this right?
2sic Daniel Mettler Friday, April 03, 2015 8:04 AM (link)
2sic Daniel Mettler
So I guess the Core-version will be a DNN X or something, a but further down the road?
2sic Daniel Mettler Friday, April 03, 2015 8:05 AM (link)
Joe Brinkman
@Rudgr - The OAuth pieces likely won't be fully ready until CTP 3 which will be a mid-May release. (CTP 2 will be out in next couple of weeks and OAuth hasn't been started yet so no chance it will be in CTP 2)
Joe Brinkman Friday, April 03, 2015 10:18 AM (link)
Joe Brinkman
@Vlastimil - In case you hadn't noticed, many of the core admin modules were already being neglected. How things are packaged does not determine whether or not a feature gets enhancements or not. I also think you are doing a huge disservice to the many community members who spend a lot of time working to maintain and enhance the DNN Platform. If you look at the list of features I have discussed in the post, and the many other features of DNN 8 that I didn't discuss, then you will see we are doing our best to make a great CMS even better.
Joe Brinkman Friday, April 03, 2015 10:27 AM (link)
Joe Brinkman
@Daniel - DNN 8 is still the same Web Forms based platform that it has always been. We'll be upgrading the minimum platform requirements but otherwise everything else remains the same. This is not an ASP.Net 5 version of DNN.

DNN neXt has never had a version number. We did that on purpose. We will have more news on DNN neXt before we reach DNN Connect in May.
Joe Brinkman Friday, April 03, 2015 10:30 AM (link)
Rodney Joyce
Thanks for the explanation... I am working on a SPA Angular App which I can now embed in a DNN module - looking forward to DNN 8!
Rodney Joyce Sunday, April 05, 2015 3:25 AM (link)
Phil Speth
Quite awesome news!
I think these changes will be great enablers for new community participation.

Phil Speth Sunday, April 05, 2015 1:30 PM (link)

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