An online presence can be the lifeblood of any organisation, providing it with differentiation with which to present an attractive face to its customers and prospects.
But to design such a website from scratch is a time-consuming affair. For many web developers, a far better choice is to use pre-designed components from libraries that are available, or to incorporate other applications in the website to provide the functionality needed.
One such gallery of applications available for reuse in websites is the Web App Gallery offered by Microsoft as part of its WebsiteSpark programme, aimed at micro web development and design agencies with ten employees or fewer.
This gallery provides designers, developers and other IT specialists with a wide range of functional applications to aid them in the task of website building.
The idea behind it is to offer a range of open source applications and scripts for professional developers to integrate on the websites they put together, but more than that, to test and re-develop them, or even rework them from scratch to support specific needs.
Once new applications have been developed and they are online for testing by the Internet Information Services internet-based services offered by Microsoft for servers running Microsoft products, they could gain a manifest, which is a clever XML file that informs the developer about who is actually using his new tool.
This form of development by communities instead of companies is gaining massively in popularity. This is also being seen in the Apple iPhone community, where are currently some 150,000 applications that can be downloaded, with three billion downloads claimed to date.
This has spurred a number of companies to integrate with the Web App Gallery initiative, an example being ReliableSite.Net LLC, a web hosting company that announced only recently that it will provide control panel integration with Microsoft's Web App Gallery, offering one-click installation of a variety of free web applications.
The company states that through the integration, hosting users will be able to instantly install any applications from the Microsoft Web App Gallery, without having to download or upload any files or configure the scripts.
It adds that users will be able to complete the entire process without leaving its control panel and further states that, in addition to the Microsoft Web Application Gallery, it also offers a multitude of pre-configured scripts that can be installed instantly. These scripts are also available at no additional charge via its control panel.
Another example is SugarCRM, which is adding its customer relationship management software to Microsoft's Web App Gallery, making it available at no charge, seeing the Web App Gallery as an online marketplace for business tools.
With offerings such as these, the value of the Web App Gallery is expanded and it is likely that many other vendors will follow their lead.