Microsoft Corp. is facing a revolt from a group of favored developers upset over the software makers decision to terminate support for Visual Basic 6.
More than 100 Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) have signed an online petition calling for Microsoft to continue to support VB6. Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., has said it will discontinue mainstream support for VB6 at the end of this month.
To justify the companys decision, Microsoft officials have pointed to the migration path it offered in 2001—when development of VB6 stopped—to the newer Visual Basic .Net. But developers say that migration is far from easy.
“Porting classic [VB6] code to VB .Net is not a trivial task,” said Jonathan Wood, founder of SoftCircuits, of West Jordan, Utah, a Microsoft MVP who signed the petition. “In some cases, there are VB code statements that will compile without error under VB .Net but produce different results.”
According to the online petition, “We would like to suggest a path for the future development of Visual Basic 6 and VBA [Visual Basic for Applications] that helps Microsoft align its long-term strategies with those of its customers.
“We believe the best way to meet these objectives is for Microsoft to include an updated version of VB6 inside the Visual Studio IDE,” the petition said. That version “should use the same keywords, syntax and types as VB6, remain COM [Component Object Model]-based and compile to native code.”
Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment.
“Microsoft changed so much about Visual Basic in the move to .Net, with blatant disregard for backward compatibility, that VB programmers were faced with a huge porting job,” said Joel Spolsky, founder and CEO of New York-based Fog Creek Software Inc. and architect of Excel VBA while at Microsoft in the early 90s. “Many used the opportunity to port to the Web instead, and VB went from being the most popular programming language in the world to a somewhat-irrelevant backwater.”
Richard Tallent, a software developer and project scientist at ERM Southwest Inc., in Beaumont, Texas, holds a different perspective. “VB .Net did not break VB6 apps any more than C# broke Java or C++ code or Delphi broke Pascal,” Tallent said.