They’ve got nuttin’ on the VB guys.
OK, quick recap for those who’ve not paid attention to what’s been going on over the in the Land Without Curly Braces:
Microsoft’s "5+2" (five years free plus two years paid) support for the VB 6 IDE is ending this year. Moral: Microsoft is not going to spend any more effort to make sure teh VB 6 IDE runs on platforms produced after this year (namely, Longhorn).
The transition from VB 6 to VB.NET/VB 7 has not gone smoothly for a number of VB developers, most likely due to the large number of simultaneous shifts going on: the language, library, and underlying platform concepts all changed at the same time, and frankly, it’s too much for somebody to assimilate all at once. (Hell, Java developers were working with a much smaller library, much simpler runtime, and a language that more or less mimicked C++, and it still took us a while to make the switch effectively.)
Apparently, a group of VB developers, led by VB MVPs, have created an open letter/petition to Microsoft to preserve the VB 6 IDE, by merging the VB 6 IDE into the next release of Visual Studio, calling it (how original) "VB.COM". (As of this writing, 2139 signatories including 222 Microsoft MVPs.)
Some responses took place: Dan Appleman and Rich Levin and Scott Swigart all basically comment on the petition and the facts of the case, in pretty typical blogger fashion (which is to say, each side sort of claiming the other side doesn’t understand the facts, doesn’t see the real problem, and so on, and so on).
Even Rocky, whom I deeply respect and admire, felt compelled to respond.
And, like any good scandal, this is one controversy that just keeps on giving. Press outlets are starting to pick up on the whole thing and treat it like some kind of National Enquirer scoop: "Microsoft MVPs Say They Want Old VB Back", "Visual Basic 6 Backers Revolt", and it’s followup "Scoble: VB.Net is no Second-Class Citizen". All we need now is a picture of VB.NET with Angelina Jolie while a weepy VB 6 sits at home with the kids.
Results? I can see a couple of interesting takeaways from this little debate that seems to be going on:
Nobody’s really sure what "support" for a language or IDE really means anymore. For that matter, what difference does it make? When was the last time you called (insert your language vendor here) and got somebody who could really help you solve your problems, anyway?
There’s an awful lot of unmanaged VB 6 code out there; whether it deserves to die or not is really immaterial–it’s there, and it needs to be dealt with in some fashion.
Apparently nobody has ever heard of VirtualPC: look, if you really really want to run the VB6 IDE, just create a Win2K VPC and run it inside there to do your coding. How hard is that?
Microsoft needs some kind of formal response to this, if only to say, "We hear the problem but aren’t sure what the right solution will be". Just letting this thing rage through the blogosphere without a response will give the impression they don’t care about their VB 6 community, and that’s millions of developers. Not a good signal to the rest of the world.
"VB.COM" is a really stupid name.
The various responders to the petition are really good at weaseling around this. "I’m on board with what the petitioners want, but let’s at least stick to the facts…". Wow; I’m definitely going to have to remember that one for the next EJB3 panel I sit on. Look, either you agree with the petition, that there needs to be continued support for the VB6 IDE (including patches and SPs?), or you’re ready to let the IDE die (even though, as pointed out, the compiled code itself will still run). I don’t see how you can be in alignment with the petition but not with the solution (another response quote).
Last but not least, there’s still a lot of lingering rancor in the VB community over the whole move to .NET, and it’ll probably more or less remain there forever.
And we in the Java world thought the mess over open-source Web frameworks was bad….