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How will the new SharePoint framework change O365 app development?

The new SharePoint framework and its approach to application development could change the way the enterprise thinks of applications in the cloud.

We have to hand it to Microsoft: More than a decade of market dominance with their .NET framework would tend to...

create a lot of trophy clutching and creative petrifaction, but here they are, not only finally acknowledging the world beyond the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., but embracing it.

"Something new in SharePoint" shifted from inspiring bouncy enthusiasm a few years ago, to stirring wary curiosity more recently. The now-teenage collaboration and content management platform has had a rough time adapting to cloud-first, mobile-first, being singularly monolithic and overbearingly server-side. And now, when we least expected it, we have the new SharePoint Framework -- a client-side SharePoint, and open source to boot.

This is not just an amazing concession to real-world pressures on the part of Microsoft; it's an unexpected technological boon that will not only extend the life of one of Microsoft's most elderly products, but could potentially change the way cloud apps are thought about and created in the enterprise.

Taking a walk on the client side

Looking over the new SharePoint framework feature list, it's practically Christmas morning. Some of these changes are things we never thought we'd see. This isn't just a major retooling of SharePoint; it's a major overhaul to Microsoft's development paradigm.

Finally, a client-side development model. We'd have taken client-side SharePoint to be a contradiction in terms at any previous moment in Microsoft's history. The complexity of the SharePoint web application and the moving parts required for on-demand creation and modification of websites and pages rivals the most meticulously designed, stand-alone .NET equivalents, and have always been formidable.

Open source tooling. Cloud living and the impetus of mobile-first have driven the new SharePoint framework toward a leaner UI, for better or worse -- a UI that is only doable today because of JavaScript's improved performance. This enables a new Page and Part model, setting app designers free of the tyrannies of the IFrame, and opening the door to a wide range of open source tooling for app development moving forward.

This departure from the more traditional development models not only simultaneously simplifies and enhances SharePoint development, it also makes it more Office 365-friendly.

Freedom from the .NET framework. We've loved it for a long time, and always will, but its diminished relevance to SharePoint opens the platform up beyond any previous innovation.

Deep integration with OneDrive for Business and Graph. This is a work in progress; alignment between SharePoint and its O365 siblings already exists, but will increase over time. This bodes well for O365, and cloud-based apps and processes in general, as each of these shares functionality with the others.

Next Steps

SharePoint framework is not just for developers

Microsoft roadmap paved by SharePoint

Sorting the SharePoint and O365 features

This was last published in May 2017

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