Mike Schaeffer's Blog

April 12, 2005

There's been some 'controversy' in the blog world about a petition that's circulating to ask Microsoft to continue supporting "Classic" Visual BASIC in addition to the replacement VB.Net. A month ago, I had a pretty long post dedicated to the topic, but due to technical problems I wasn't able to get it online. Therefore, I'll keep this sweet and to the point.

The core problem VB6 developers are facing is that they sank lots of development money into a closed, one-vendor language. Choosing VB6 basically amounted to a gamble that Microsoft would continue to support and develop the language for the duration of a project's active life. That gamble hasn't paid off for some developers, and companies with sizable investments in VB6 code now need to figure out how to make the most of that investment while still evolving their software.

With standardized languages like C, languages with multiple tool vendors, the risk is significantly lower. If one vendor drops their version of a language, switching to another implementation is going to be a lot easier than porting to an entirely different platform (particularly if you've avoiced or isolated vendor-specific features).

So... what's the moral of this story? Before you base your business on a particular language or tool, make sure you know what happens if that platform ever loses support. Pick something standardized, with multiple viable vendors. Or alternatively pick something open source, where you can take over platform development yourself (if you absolutely need to). Whatever you do, don't pick a one vendor tool and complain when the vendor decides to drop it. Commercial vendors, particularly, have no legal obligation to their customers.