29 Nov 2016

SharePoint Development - Origins

This post is the first in a series looking at how SharePoint development has changed over the years, and how it is likely to change in the future. In this post, we will look back at SharePoint's origins, up to and including the release of SharePoint 2003.

Series Outline:

 

SharePoint's Origins

SharePoint evolved from two separate Microsoft projects, named "Office Server" and "Tahoe", that were developed during the development of Office XP. It was also influenced by the Platinum project that introduced the concept of digital dashboards, and the TeamPages project that allowed users to create and edit simple web-based lists (the origin of the CAML markup language). These projects were all aimed at accessing and sharing information across organisations. The initial development on these products started back in March 1998, prior to the release of the .NET framework (the initial beta versions of the .NET framework were released in late 2000).

SharePoint 2001

The initial SharePoint release was actually two separate products, the Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server (SPS, released 2001) and the Microsoft SharePoint Team Services (STS, released in 2002). The SPS product was based on "Tahoe", offering top-down portals, search and document management. Tahoe was a collection of different technologies from various companies acquired by Microsoft that was built on top of the Exchange data store. STS was based on "Office Server", and was a bottom up team collaboration product.

Thankfully, I have never had to work with this early version of SharePoint, which was very basic.

SharePoint 2003

In 2003, SharePoint as we would recognise it today was released. It combined STS and SPS together to offer collaboration, search, content management and portal capabilities in a single product. It had an improved user interface, better personalization, and a collaboration store.

A lot of the criticism aimed at the initial SharePoint 2001 release was around the under-powered web store that limited the functionality of the product and a digital dashboard that was outside Microsoft’s core development platform, limiting support options for users. As a result, significant work was put into making SharePoint 2003 more reliable and scalable, and to improve support options by making use of the same developer tools as other Microsoft products.

The product came in 2 different versions:

  • Windows SharePoint Services v2 (WSS 2.0), a basic free version that was included with Windows Server 2003.
  • SharePoint Portal services 2003 (SPS 2003), a premium version was built on top of WSS that included additional functionality for document management and search.

The main features included:

  • Alerts
  • Site templates
  • Calendars
  • Surveys
  • Document Libraries
  • Lists
  • MySite
  • Site Directory
  • User Profile
  • Improved search and indexing (SPS)
  • Improved user interface and personalization options
  • Taxonomy
  • Document collaboration and versioning features
  • Single Sign-on
  • Audiences
  • Web Parts (.cab)

 

Developing for SharePoint 2003

The major developer features in SharePoint 2003 were the introduction of server-side API, and the replacement of the Exchange data store with SQL Server. The server-side API made use of the new integration with the .NET framework, and allowed the development of custom code solutions, including web parts. In addition to the default web parts (Content Editor, Image, Form and Contacts), developers could develop custom web parts using Visual Studio 2003 (using the .cab file format).

Note that in SharePoint 2003, and all subsequent versions of SharePoint, COM components (unmanaged code) are used for core features, with a (smaller) managed layer wrapped around it for the .NET API. This is the cause of the dispose issues that affects fundamental SharePoint objects such as SPSite and SPWeb (here and also here).

I did have to work with SharePoint 2003, and it was a pretty horrible experience. Even in it's second release, it was a very immature product, and the developer tooling (based around Visual Studio) was lacking.

In the next post, I’ll look at at the release of MOSS 2007.

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