Well, the news is out over on Scott Guthrie’s weblog: Atlas has received it’s offical name and true to Microsoft tradition it’s no where near as cool as the code-name. 😛 There are technically three major facets to the product formally known as Atlas and Scott does a good job breaking it down, but I’ll sum it up here again:
ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX Extensions – this is the set of .NET components that you can use in your ASP.NET web applications that keep ASP.NET developers from having to worry about learning/touching any of the gobble-dee-gook of the Microsoft AJAX Library and still get all the great AJAX functionality. It also gives you UpdatePanel which is the absolute simplest way for you to give a richer AJAX experience without having to do a complete overhaul of your existing ASP.NET application. This separate package will eventually go away as the functionality is rolled into the ASP.NET runtime itself.
ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit – this is the open source set of controls that are built on the former two technologies that provide a real world set of functionality. This is pretty important considering that the former two technologies reallllly don’t provide that much in the way of functional controls. Rather they provide the foundation on which controls can be built. So, you’ll need the ToolKit, or some third party like ComponentArt or Infragistics to provide you with a rich set of re-useable controls.
The one thing I must always rant about is the lack of a true HTML component model. The fact that we still have to have a separate set of code that injects and/or hooks up to some elements in the static DOM is pretty silly. There’s been a proposed specification from Microsoft (maybe that’s the problem) for an HTML component model floating around the W3C since 1998. Sure it needs work, but nobody’s moved on it at all. If you’re doing pure IE development you’d have to be an idiot not to use it. I wish I could do that. Also, Dean Edwards even put together a Mozilla XBL wrapper that implements it for Mozilla. Seems like it may never become a spec, but with more people doing cross-browser, client side development due to the buzz around AJAX, I bet a lot more people than myself are going to start groaning about it.