in Business

Why .Net???

From the first day we started Docstoc people have been asking me “why .Net”? I’m being asked this by technologies, of course, but also from other, non-tech people like private investors, VCs, SEO experts, marketing guys, potential hires, partners, and any random guests that just happen to stop by and say hi to Jason (of course…). Thank God my 9 year old son hasn’t asked me that yet…

I think it became a “style question” that make people look like they know/care/understand such as “what is your business model?” or “what is your current runway?” or “what do you think about the effects of the economy on high-tech?”. But unlike these questions, that try to understand something, the “why .Net?” is a charged question. What people are really asking is “why not X” where X can be anything but a Microsoft technology. This X can be PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, or even Java. Man, sometimes I’d rather say we developed the site in Assembly and I’m sure I’d get less raised eyebrows.

Well, seriously why .Net?

After all, it’s a Microsoft product and, as we all know, Microsoft is all about world domination and the end of free and open source software as we know it. Basically Microsoft is evil and we should avoid its technology at all cost, not even touch it with a stick. Why pay money for something that suppose to be free? The whole notion of a company trying to make money from selling software makes me sick.

Ok, enough with the sarcasm. Let’s talk seriously.

Our job as technology leaders (CTOs, CIOs, and other fancy titles) is to find and implement technology solutions for world/business problems. That’s it! We are not politicians. We should not have hidden agendas. The concept of LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP) VS. Microsoft must change. We need to choose the right technology just as we choose the right people. Can you imagine group of CTOs that hire only white developers vs. group of CTOs that hire only black developers? It is clear to that the way we thought since the 90s must change. The walls between selecting only ONE side of the technology fence MUST end.

The reason we all choose side is very simple which it is the answer I give to the “why .Net?” question. All startups in the history were developed using the technologies that the CTO knew and liked. Very simple, nothing more. Everything else is silly rationalization. I’ve seen many examples of successful startups built in PHP, Java, ASP.Net, CGI, ROR, and many others. All scale, all run fast, all are successful. Startups rarely fail because they used one technology vs. another. They mostly fail because they run out of money.

Starting Docstoc I’ve decided to break the walls, which I was part of. I’ve decided we will use the right technology for the right solution, regardless of the source. Although we use .Net for the platform and the site, we use MySQL as the database (yeah, not SQL Server), MemCached for caching, Lucene for full text search, and other open source technologies. Most of these had a matching Microsoft technology but it was simply not as good or just as good.

Last, let’s talk money. Can someone please tell me which company is spending more on hardware, software, license, hosting, traffic, storage, and support, MySpace or Facebook? Is one more successful than the other because of the technology they use?

I rest my case.


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  1. First Comment! Yeah! I feel like a tech geek! 🙂

    In all seriousness though, is that question even relevant anymore? Especially with services such as DocStoc, FaceBook, and others that live and breath online only and not on the user’s desktop. Ten years ago, when software resided on a company’s server and had to be maintained by the company’s internal staff, that question had some relevance because it determined the type of people that need to be hired/trained to maintain the system. But today, who cares? What companies like DocStoc are doing is selling a service and not software or systems or hardware. The guarantee that DocStoc makes to its users is that the service will be reliable and available. These two things have more to do with the hardware that it is running on and the bandwidth than the language or platform on which the service is built. .Net is as reliable (if not more so) than other open source platforms.

    The key for me is that companies or users that are using hosted services (which is essentially what sites like DocStoc, Scribd, LinkedIn, and others are) are not buying software. They are buying a service. To me it is the same as bringing in a plumber to service the pipes in your house. You do not care if the plumber learned on the job or went to plumbing school. You simple care that it fixes the problem and services you correctly. Granted, that is not always the case. If you need a lawyer or a doctor, you generally care about where they got their education and which hospitals they did their residency in, but I equate that to purchasing an ERP system. In that case, you do care about whether or not it uses SQL Server or MySQL. But do you really care what language it is written in? Even Siebel used to be written in VB and used ASP.NET for its “web” interface. And this was the number one ERP system in the world.

    Lets face it, every platform has its strong points and weak points. But that is irrelevant to the end user. As you have said Alon, a perfect example is MySpace and Facebook. Two companies using two very different platforms and yet very successful.

    Guess what the next question will be? Why did you develop your mobile application for the iPhone vs. the Android Phone… More on that later…


  2. Nice Post, Alon.
    In startups, one has to deliver the maximum in a minimum amount of time and resources and that holds true with respect to every aspect of a startup(technology, marketing, finance etc etc).
    In that spirit, If the technology lead is not comfortable with the technology he is using then open source wont make much sense to him :).. Every second is crucial when running a startup and given the small differences between the scalability and flexibility of the different technologies, there should be a little debate on which one to use and this post acts as an exact guide on which one to chose and why.. 🙂

  3. Hi Alon! .Net and Coldfusion are the 2 Server Applications that are pre-compiled so they do not require interpreter that PHP requires so are therefore faster (how much and under what circurstances not certain). So with this and the volume of documents in your database, perhaps .Net isn’t such a bad choice after all! Nice Blog!


  4. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!