Visual Basic 6: The Good Old Days (March 9th, 2005)

I just ran across a blog post calling on Microsoft to reinstate support for VB6 syntax in VB.NET (via MS Watch). There is also a petition signed by multiple MVPs. Among the more interesting parts:

Worse, Microsoft broke the sacred trust of BASIC developers; something the company carefully cultivated since its founding in 1975 (Microsoft Basic was the company’s first product). Forward compatibility was a given until the arrival of .NET. Then, with the arrival of Visual Studio .NET, Microsoft chose to abandon its doctrine of evolutionary change in favor of a revolutionary “clean slate” approach.

I symphatize with the author since I also begun my programming carrier at age 12 with plain BASIC, moving eventually to QuickBASIC and VB6. However, when VB.NET came out two years ago and I realized how much work it would take to convert my applications to VB.NET, we just went and rewrote the whole thing as a web-based application. Sure DHTML is not fun, but I am no longer tied down to a single platform.

At the same time, note how WELL this is explained by what Joel Spolsky wrote over six months ago:

There are two opposing forces inside Microsoft, which I will refer to, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as The Raymond Chen Camp and The MSDN Magazine Camp.

Inside Microsoft, the MSDN Magazine Camp has won the battle.The first big win was making Visual Basic.NET not backwards-compatible with VB 6.0. This was literally the first time in living memory that when you bought an upgrade to a Microsoft product, your old data (i.e. the code you had written in VB6) could not be imported perfectly and silently. It was the first time a Microsoft upgrade did not respect the work that users did using the previous version of a product.

And what’s the conclusion? The author of the VB blog post says that:

Now millions of VB developers are language refugees, looking for a new language to call home. This will be to the benefit of language vendors other than Microsoft, which squandered a golden lock on the hearts, minds, and souls of BASIC programmers worldwide — all in the name of something new and allegedly better (read: we need an answer to Java).This isn’t conjecture. Independent market researchers across the industry (i.e., those not dependent on Microsoft’s financial support) report a steady decline in the number of VB developers worldwide since the release of VB.NET. Is this the swan song for a hard-working, approachable language that was once the planet’s most popular programming dialect? Here’s one of many compelling examples: http://tinyurl.com/5zpr6 (note that, while declining, classic VB still tops the list, while VB.NET brings up the rear).

To which Joel explains that this is basically the demise of Microsoft:

So the Web user interface is about 80% there, and even without new web browsers we can probably get 95% there. This is Good Enough for most people and it’s certainly good enough for developers, who have voted to develop almost every significant new application as a web application.Which means, suddenly, Microsoft’s API doesn’t matter so much. Web applications don’t require Windows.

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