Why does ASP.NET webforms need the Runat=”Server” attribute


Why do I have to specify runat="server" on all my ASP.NET controls when it is a mandatory attribute and server is the only option available in my limited knowledge of ASP.NET, and I get an error if I don't use it?

I do understand that I can optionally use it on my HTML tags, and I do understand the client/server paradigm and what it is actually specifying.

Is it a redundant tag that could just be implied by the control being an ASP.NET control, or is there an underlying reason?

Best Solution

I've always believed it was there more for the understanding that you can mix ASP.NET tags and HTML Tags, and HTML Tags have the option of either being runat="server" or not. It doesn't hurt anything to leave the tag in, and it causes a compiler error to take it out. The more things you imply about web language, the less easy it is for a budding programmer to come in and learn it. That's as good a reason as any to be verbose about tag attributes.

This conversation was had on Mike Schinkel's Blog between himself and Talbot Crowell of Microsoft National Services. The relevant information is below (first paragraph paraphrased due to grammatical errors in source):

[...] but the importance of <runat="server"> is more for consistency and extensibility.

If the developer has to mark some tags (viz. <asp: />) for the ASP.NET Engine to ignore, then there's also the potential issue of namespace collisions among tags and future enhancements. By requiring the <runat="server"> attribute, this is negated.

It continues:

If <runat=client> was required for all client-side tags, the parser would need to parse all tags and strip out the <runat=client> part.

He continues:

Currently, If my guess is correct, the parser simply ignores all text (tags or no tags) unless it is a tag with the runat=server attribute or a “<%” prefix or ssi “<!– #include(...) Also, since ASP.NET is designed to allow separation of the web designers (foo.aspx) from the web developers (foo.aspx.vb), the web designers can use their own web designer tools to place HTML and client-side JavaScript without having to know about ASP.NET specific tags or attributes.

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