I've been using ASP.Net WebForms for the last year or two at work for development, but I've used PHP for personal projects for 10 years. So, I'm far more adept at developing with PHP.

When it comes to ASP.Net MVC, I have no experience with it because I've avoided it because I assumed it would just be a more complicated form of WebForms. Recently, I've been doing more research and it's sounding like MVC might be closer to what what I want. But, something I'm still not clear on is which ASP.Net programming model is closer to developing with PHP.

  • My biggest complaint about ASP.Net WebForms is the "magic boxes." Namely the View State, and ScriptManager.
  • I don't like that WebForms messes with my client side HTML/JavaScript/CSS. WebForms does a lot of this including, but not limited to:
    • Inserting JavaScript that I can't modify and have to rely on Microsoft to ensure cross-browser compatibility.
    • Forcefully changing the name attributes of tags that make use of runat="server".
    • Wrapping the contents of a <form> with a <div> tag.
    • Forcing wrapping everything inside one big <form> tag.
  • Everything in WebForms feels like it's catered to in-experienced web-developers who only know how to write Windows applications with .Net.
    • Standard names for tags and attributes are changed when using <asp:xxx> tags. For example, instead of an anchor (<a>) tag, it's a "hyperlink" (i.e. <asp:HyperLink>). Instead of href= it's NavigationUrl=.
    • The event driven model.
  • I also don't like the complete separation of server side code from the client side code. I miss being able to do things like this...

         <? foreach( $people as $person ) { ?>
             <td><?= $person->name ?></td>
             <td><?= $person->age ?></td>
         <? } ?>

So, with these points in mind, which programming model is closer to development with PHP (i.e. do the annoyances of WebForms that I've listed here exist in MVC)?

Note: I have found ways around many, if not all of these annoyances, but did not feel the solutions I use are revelent to the question at hand.

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, Dan Pichelman, user40980, thorsten müller, ozz Sep 23 '13 at 15:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    I'm not going to answer this because it would be very opinion based. All I can suggest is that you go with MVC. It's a good framework and it allows you to do the server-side/client-side mix that you seek. At least give it a try. – Rowan Freeman Sep 19 '13 at 6:06
  • @RowanFreema, thanks for the suggestion. The type of answer I was looking for though would not be an opinion based one. It would either say "these annoyances exist in MVC" or "they don't." – Drew Chapin Sep 19 '13 at 12:26

In ASP.NET MVC (3 and greater) using razor the example would be

@foreach(var person in people) 

The same syntax can be used in ASP.NET Web Pages. There are differences in there two technologies.

In MVC there are separate classes for controllers and models. The project has more specific structure. The project is built before deployment.

Web Pages project is compiled on the fly, so you can just change a file and changes appear. It doesn't have same kind of "pipeline" as MVC.

I would recommend MVC, but Web Pages is more like PHP.

  • 2
    Note that ASP.NET Web Pages is not the same as ASP.NET Web Forms (the confusion is easy to do, since Web Pages is not popular enough to be known by everyone). – Arseni Mourzenko Sep 19 '13 at 12:52

MVC is probably a bit closer to PHP then Web Forms. The "annoyances" you specifically ask about in reference to Web Forms mostly do not exist in MVC. However, its important to note that although MVC is closer to PHP than Web Forms it is still significantly different than building a web page in PHP.

There are specific conventions you follow in ASP.NET MVC. It still forces separate server side and "client side" code as you call it. It does, however, encourage keeping presentation logic out of the controller and in the view while keeping all non-presentation logic out of the view and in other places (controller, model, service layer, etc...).

Pages in ASP.NET MVC are route driven rather than file driven. This is a major difference between base PHP and ASP.NET MVC.

Unless you've programmed an MVC structured website in PHP you're still likely to find many of the concepts in ASP.NET MVC foreign, even if some of the annoyances you reference are not present. Vanilla PHP (without any additional framework) is much more comparable in programming model to classic ASP. ASP.NET MVC is more comparable to Ruby on Rails than anything else. Not sure that ASP.NET Web Forms is really comparable to anything.


MVC gets you closer but it is still vastly more formal than PHP really wants to be unless you are using a MVC framework. What is more equivalent to a typical, raw PHP app would be ASP.NET Web Pages. That will support inline code as shown above without the framework and ceremony MVC requires -- down to not needing a separate controller file. Microsoft also packages many of helper libraries so you can integrate things like Facebook or twitter by doing little more than writing @Facebook.Like() in your code.


I have recently read pro_asp.net_mvc_4_4th_edition and it adressed a lot of your points - I would say MVC was specifically designed to AVOID the problems you mentioned. if you want a nice and comprehensive introduction I would give the book a try, it is very well written.

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