“Rumors of my (VB6) demise…”


As Mark Twain once famously said, “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” 

 

I’ve thought this same thing as I’ve read many of the comments in the press and the blogosphere over the past couple of days about the “end” of support for VB6.  What’s actually happening is that we’re transitioning from a free support model for VB6 to a paid support model.  To be clear: Visual Basic support is not ending. 

 

This change from free to paid support is something that we announced back in 2002 and means that Visual Basic developers have had 7 years of free support since the tool shipped in 1998.   “Extended” support will continue through March, 2008 and we’ll have custom support contracts available through 2012.   Visual Basic developers who acquired VB6 through an MSDN subscription received two to four pre-paid support incidents with their subscriptions and these are still valid.  Several other Microsofties have already blogged about the full details of this support and you can find their entries here, here and here.

 

Usually we talk about the Visual Basic development environment and the Visual Basic runtime in the same breath, but in this case it’s worthwhile separating the two of them.  The Visual Basic Runtime shipped as a part of Windows XP, which means that it’s covered under Windows XP’s support cycle (essentially 2 years from when we ship Windows Longhorn before it transitions into paid support).  If necessary, we’ll still provide security patches free of charge.

 

Visual Basic 6.0 has a tremendous and passionate developer community.  Many users can – and do – get their questions answered through the newsgroups and online forums.  One of these online portals is our own MSDN center, which will continue to host a large amount of VB6 whitepapers, FAQs and code samples.  We’re continuing to look at ways to make that content easier to locate and use. 

 

We remain passionately committed to helping Visual Basic developers solve new challenges using Visual Basic .NET and Visual Basic 2005?  One of the things that we’ll be doing later this month is introducing a “VB Upgrade Center” as a part of the developer center on MSDN.  This will be a one-stop-shop for finding some of the best VB6 content, information on how to use VB6 and VB .NET together and information on how to take your development skills to VB .NET.  I’m also very excited that we have a PreCon at TechEd that’s focused entirely on Visual Basic 6.0 developers making the move to Visual Basic 2005.  It’s got a couple of great speakers and allows you to get your skills up to speed as you enjoy the rest of TechEd.

 

Namaste!


Comments (38)

  1. Jim Mack says:

    MS seems to be trying very hard to focus on the word ‘support’, defining it as narrowly as possible in order to turn the discussion away from the key points made by the petitioners.

    Those points are well laid out in the petition itself and the related FAQ. The real issue of support isn’t MS answering the phone — almost no one needs that after so many years and with such a ‘passionate’ developer community offering peer assistance, as you note.

    No, the real issue is MS’s support of its customers in their need to preserve the value of their assets, in this case literally billions of lines of BASIC code that until VB.NET came along was brought forward, with more or less effort, in each succeeding generation. Now we have not a generational change, but a mutation caused almost entirely by unnecessary, arbitrary changes to the core language.

    This is not about VB6 developers needing assistance in moving to VB.NET, although that would be a worthy goal for MS to pursue. But you have been quoted as saying that MS has no plans to provide a better ‘upgrade wizard’, so whatever effort is made, will be made by individuals. A large majority of the users and companies involved are not primarily programming shops, and have no budget, and indeed no (or negative) incentive to spend money on changes that would not be necessary at all but for MS’s arrogance.

    The argument is made that such shops can just keep their VB6 code and not change. Yet MS, in discontinuing support, is saying ‘do so at your own risk: if we do something that breaks your code, tough’. In effect this is happening now to VB6 users — can you imagine the pain when it happens to VBA users, who by and large have more invested in their code, and are much less likely to have actual programmers and programming budgets?

    So don’t try to sidetrack or derail this effort by redefining it to suit your packaged arguments. I encourage everyone to read the petition and the FAQ for yourselves, and realize that the signers are not of one mind on any issue except the basic one of trust. Stand with us on this or your code base may be next.

    <url>http://vb.mvps.org/vfred/Trust.asp</url&gt;

  2. Jim Mack says:

    Sorry for the munged url. That should be:

    http://vb.mvps.org/vfred/Trust.asp

  3. Excellent response, Jim. Nailed the central issues, in particular Soma’s ongoing attempt to FUD on past the core problem here. The end of support is merely more chimes noting another milestone on the doomsday clock.

    The real issue here is, the company that proclaimed "Trustworty Computing" as its mantra can no longer be trusted with investment of its customer’s most treasured assets — their data. Microsoft’s unilateral declaration of disposable data is the epitome of arrogance.

    Soma, if you want to find out what the community is really interested in, people within your division know very well how to contact any of the 225+ MVPs who’ve signed a petition saying your actions are deplorable, myself included. This is *not* about VB6, as much as it is about whose data Microsoft will render useless next!

    Are you familiar with Martin Niemoller, Soma? Many of the petitioners certainly are, especially those using VBA to automate Office. None of them want to be left alone, muttering, "and then they came for me…"

    I ask you to show *some* sign that you understand what’s going on here. From your blog, and the press, it seems clear you either do not or would rather not.

    Thanks… Karl



    Microsoft BASIC MVP, 1994-present

    http://classicvb.org/

  4. Jay Kimble says:

    Karl,

    I and so many others are so tired of you. I would post my own counter petition begging MS to strip you of your MVP, but I won’t waste my time (or MS’)

  5. RBL says:

    I just want to know why the small number (by comparison) of Visual Fox Pro developers are treated like steak, but VB developers are treated like chopped liver. The VFP crowd has been spared the pain of .NET migrations, and can move their DOS-era apps forward from version to version with a fairly traditional level of pain. Why not allow this same treatment for VB? As far as giving VB developers the best RAD experience ever, we HAD that in VB6. When I met with Roskill and the VB team in NY in the late 90s and was evangelizing the need to modernize VB for the Web, my emphasis was on Web RAD and high-order CBD in a VB context. That meant being able to use the same RAD approach to build both native and Web apps, without having to hit the ESC to HTML button. We are still far away from this concept, which I believe most VB developers share. .NET was inspired by the right motives, but seriously flawed in its execution in the VB context. It’s fine for C# and the other Java-like languages. But VB should not have been woven into this thing. Now that it has, at least allow VB developers the choice between the .NET world and a true RAD world; one that supports the past and embraces the future.

  6. Greg Chapman says:

    Soma,

    I’m not that familiar with you and I’m certain the you have the same problem with me. We have one more problem in common, though.

    You do appear to be focusing on the well-being of .Net and forgetting the investment of customers who worked the product before you entered the picture. In doing so, you are also telling me that my investment in the language as a non-developer with problems best solved in a development language is no longer important. The fact that I use VBA and VBScript as system level tools, that I’ve used these to help make Microsoft products reasonably efficient platforms within my shop is not important.

    When you stripped the language of its VB characteristics and simultaneously denied me a path to bring my code forward without reinventing it, you forced this customer to realize he must shop for a more stable platform. After all, if the stake is in the heart of VB, then one must be poised above the chest of it’s child languages, ready to drop at any time and regardless of cost to your customers.

    Sadly, there is no other language that I’ve identified as keeping the time investment as low as VB did so I can do my real job instead of becoming a programmer. And you don’t seem to care about that. Otherwise I’d would expect your comments to be more along the lines of how you’ll help those shops move that IP investment forward. Instead you recommend I hop into a copy of VS and forget my justifiable fear that only 5 or so years are left before your replacement comes along and does the same thing to today’s .Net customer.

    I don’t like that at all. I will have a hard time when that day comes to restrain myself and not point to your .Net customers and shout, "See?!? I told you so! Ya can’t trust ’em!!"

    This move and the stubborn retreat behind old-fictional commitments by the .Net dev teams further reinforces my thoughts that the Linux guys are right as I jealously observe the 20 and 30 year (to date) lives of their core languages.

    Sir, I’m sure I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I wouldn’t want to face a public with this particular problem at all. Do what you can to make sure it never happens again if it is indeed too late for you to undo this abuse of your old customers.

  7. S. Somasegar says:

    Thank you all for the feedback.

    The intent of my blog was to clarify one of the things that is on people’s minds – which is around VB6 support.

    I do understand the pain that folks who have made deep investments in VB6 have to go through because of the compatibility issues moving to VB.NET and the new platform. I can honestly tell you that this was a very, very hard decision that we had to take back in 1999. We had talked to a lot of our VB customers back then and we had a tough decision to make. On the one hand, we realized that the future strategic direction for development tools was managed code built on the .NET Framework. On the other hand, we knew that we will incur some compatibility issues for our VB6 customers if we were to take them forward to the new tools and platform. We had our best engineers and architects work on this problem trying to accomplish both. The reality is that after a lot of analysis, work and debate we concluded that we could do one or the other and not both and we wanted to make Visual Basic .NET a first-class citizen on the .NET Framework. Like I mentioned before, we did talk to a lot of our customers and MVPs about this. A lot of them agreed with us on the strategic direction and some of them did not like the pain this would introduce.

    We have been working hard to both support our customers who have made investments in VB6 for a long time to come as well as making it as easy as realistically possible to help them migrate their assets over to the new world.

    Earlier today, we sent a letter to each of the MVPs who signed this petition detailing our response to the concerns that the petition raised. You can read the entire letter at http://blogs.msdn.com/jroxe/archive/2005/03/17/398325.aspx. This letter has already received feedback from all over the world from developers continuing the dialog with us.

    One other thing that has been raised is VBA support. VBA shipped as a part of Office 2003 and is absolutely slated to ship as a part of the next version of Office as well.

  8. >We have been working hard to both support our customers who have made investments in VB6 for

    >a long time to come as well as making it as easy as realistically possible to help them

    >migrate their assets over to the new world.

    Where’s the proof of your statement? All I see are mainstream support for VB6 ending at the end of the month and nothing what so ever in the way of *viable* tools to migrate the existing code base without *HUGE* investments of resources both human and fiscal. Sorry, but I just don’t see how you can possibly equate this with providing support for your existing VB6 customers and their data "for a long time to come".

    Your customers invested in your product and entrusted their data to you with the understanding that you would provide a path forward for that data. Thus far, you have failed them rather miserably.

  9. As a professional VBA developer, a promise of one more version of Office with VBA in it really doesn’t float my boat.

    You’ll find a surprising number of Excel spreadsheets, Word templates and Access databases doing mission-critical tasks for companies, all using VBA. If companies find they need to rewrite them in the successor to VBA, I’ll do it – for a suitable fee. But once large companies do an audit and see how much VBA they will have to replace as the price for upgrading to the next-but-one version of Office, they will probably decide that they will pass.

    Then you will have the Office market in the same state that you have managed with VB6, with people hanging on to an unsupported version because of the prohibitive costs of moving on. And you lose the upgrade revenues as a result. Do you *really* want to achieve that? You are certainly going the right way about it.

  10. Hi Soma, I have replied to Jay’s blog post with my thoughts, which focus on my perception of the VBA issues.

  11. John Anderson says:

    For our group it’s not a matter of learning .NET; we spent time training and we’re writing new apps in .NET platforms now. The issue is the nearly million lines of legacy code that’s nearly unconvertable.

    How can we justify the cost of conversion to management? We essentially have to write new products to replace the old, from the ground up. Most of our investment in fine-tuning and getting the business rules to work just right will be lost.

    As to the conversion utility, it’s almost useless. More often than not it simply identifies the incompatibilities with an link, when in some cases it could have come up with or marshalled a much better solution. Overall, conversion appears to have been paid merely an afterthought.

    But can I blame this all on the company that wrote the converter? No, rather on those at Microsoft who I believe chose the wrong balance between old and new, and cut the ties way too cleanly.

    Microsoft can do as they want – it’s their software, I only buy a license to use it. But this whole ugly conversion situation has been staring us in the face for two years now, and it’s making us think twice about our future platforms.

  12. aguynamedlee@technologist.com says:

    Microsoft should acknowledge that VB6 has become the Cobol of the Windows platform. It became a staple in many IT shops around the globe. the number of lines of code that are at stake represent a significant corporate investment.

    Cobol persists because of the level of investment in existing code. VB6 will persist also, or some variant.

    Would it not be ironic if the migration to Linux was accelerated due to the existence of open source tools such as Gambas (a visual basic like environment)? If you have the source, no company can really pull the rug out from under you.

  13. d.code says:

    VB6 FOREVER: A Manifesto.

  14. ucedac says:

    VB6 is a great tool for automation, I used it as a wrapper for other MS technologies WMI/WSH/ADSI/ADO-ODBC, etc, it allowed me to create easily redistributable (relatively complex) small programs to fit here and there…

    With VB.net all is lost, VB.net may be a better languaje for big projects now, but that wasn’t the strenght of VB6 nor it was a good idea to build a big app on VB6.

    VB6 made easy to create small(and not so small ones) apps to fill gaps in days that would have taken weeks or months in C++, that’s where the power of VB6 reside.

    For me at least there are tools that can do the same (RealBasic) I’m on migration process to RB now, I do not think MS will wake up on this one.

  15. Bob Reselman says:

    I wonder, what will the cost be for paid support?

    Are we talking ten dollars or ten thousand dollars?

    From my take on this entry, it seems as if support is not going away. This is good. Maintaing support at a cost that is prohibitive to the averge Coding Joe would be not so good, I think.

  16. Bob Reselman says:

    I wonder, what will the cost be for paid support?

    Are we talking ten dollars or ten thousand dollars?

    From my take on this entry, it seems as if support is not going away. This is good. Providing support at a cost that is prohibitive to the average Coding Joe would be not so good, I think.

  17. Jim, what exactly does Microsoft owe you? Point out to me the part that says your legacy code stops working when Microsoft’s support shifts to paid. I’d like to see how you’ve written your apps for this to be the case.

    It’s like pleading a case that Toyota owes me free maintenance for as long as I keep my ’95 Corolla running, because I’m too stubborn or short-sighted to either figure it out for myself or give up and buy a new car.

    As an MVP, you enjoy many more benefits than the general public in the technical support you receive (free with the MSDN / TechNet sub), your input into new products (a direct line to the design team), your access to knowledge and training resources (online MS courseware, a voucher for books and tools at the e-store), certification (a free exam per year), and more. It remains your choice to ignore these, whether to upgrade your skills or to improve upon what is I’m sure a formidable set of VB skills.

    VB was never touted as the be-all and end-all of development. It made things easy, but you’ve always had a choice. You made a choice, and rather than complain about the choice you made, why not take some action to make it the right choice today? Fill that niche. Start a support community of your own. Show us all how to do it right. Find a way to continue to profit fom your VB skill and knowledge. MS is creating an aching void here, someone ought to fill it.

    Whatever you do, please continue to ignore the benefits you enjoy as an MVP. Don’t upgrade your skills. Don’t convert your code. Stories that you can call unmanaged code from .NET (and vice-versa) and migrate applications piecemeal? All the stuff of conjecture and marketing I’m sure. So don’t go there. And it’s not because the longer you keep up this mindset, the less competition there is for the rest of us. Honest.

    Take care,

    Eli.

  18. S. Somasegar says:

    Hi Bob,

    Regarding your question about how much the paid support costs:

    You can buy a single-instance support for $245 or a package of 5 incidents for $1225. You can also buy a web-only incident for $99.

    Regards,

    Somasegar

  19. Bobby987 says:

    MS has discontinued support for a lot of code out there besides VB. Can anyone say "DDE"? My company also had a whole bunch of DDE code. Guess what, the DDE code still runs, you just don’t get support on it. Don’t like the policy, you replace it, or you live with it. This has been going on for years now, don’t act so surprised!

    Sooner or later, things die, that’s just the way it is — deal with it.

  20. This is not an issue of support or not.

    The whole issue is that Microsoft has changed their way of reaching the market. We (the VB/VBA-people) helped them and opened the doors to get into the large accounts. Now they are there and they don’t need us anymore. It’s as simple as that.

    The people they meet today (their new customers) at the IT-apartments at the large accounts (CIO:s etc) haven’t got a clue about all the stuff used out in the apartments. And if they have seen anything they dislikes it and hopes it will die as soon as possible, that is what Microsoft is trying to help them to achieve. As always we are in the battle of if IT should be implemented top-down or bottom-up. And the sad story is that Microsoft has changed position the last years.

    I have always been the bottom-up guy who believed in the power and the engagement at the apartments where people work and find smarter ways of using computers. The top-down represented by IBM, Oracle etc and now also Microsoft has always been madness to me. Lots of wasted money trying to implement systems invented at HQ meetings by guys drawing silly schemas with boxes and arrows using three digit words who nobody understands. No it’s simply a question of dictatorship or democracy. It is not just Microsoft moving in that direction I think the whole nation, United States of America is going there…

  21. Okay Rickard, so it’s not about the free support, even though this is all that Microsoft is changing. Thanks for clearing that up.

    So once again the question is, "What exactly does Microsoft owe you?"

    Two further questions – what do you mean when you write "apartment"? Department? And if MSFT has been stiffing the bottom-up guys then what do you make of INETA (which provides deep support to user groups) or other community initiatives like the MVP program which continues to recognise individual volunteer efforts in public forums?

    Take care,

    Eli.

  22. Sorry for not being native English. Do some silly mistakes with English mixing up word etc. You are welcome to answer me in Swedish…

    You are totally right Microsoft owes me nothing, I am very grateful for all help I have received so far. Without them I had been a poor man begging for help.

    Depatment, sorry.

    Sorry for not knowing what INETA is, never heard of it, living in Sweden far away from US is not always easy.

    Bottom up for me is something totally different than giving people the oppertunity to say what the want and contribute to MSFT by wasting a lot of the spare time. Bottom-up means selling the software and the functions to the people that uses the software not the guys sitting in the IT-department (Now I got it right ehh) knowing what is best for everybody.

    Exciting with this discussion is all feelings involved. You are probably a very nice guy as I am, but the whole issue is much more about trust and what promises you have made to your customers about your belief in MSFT as a phenomena.

  23. Jason Marsell says:

    VB6 had a good run. Just let it go.

    By and large, there is a community of developers who seem to be locked in the past with their thoughts, ideals, and most importantly, technology (language)preferences.

    I find it most interesting how committed and passionate they are about fighting for something that will soon be considered the

    "8-track" of the programming world.

    I only wish they’d focus these energies and efforts towards the natural progression of technology and allow that which has become outdated to begin its passing into history.

    Imagine how many .NET cycles have been lost to typing page after page of complaints about losing VB6 support.

    Jason Marsell

    MCSD

  24. Jason,

    Yes we are locked in with old technology – not our brains but the work we have done to our customers. I have converted my brain main times and there are a lot of space for new knowledge – No problem. But I can’t go there without customers, that is the key issue.

  25. Norman Diamond says:

    Two things here.

    1. The problem isn’t learning new programming languages (for some individuals it is but that’s not the big problem). The problem is the amount of existing code. Migration from VB6 to VB.Net is like migration from Fortran to C. Sure there’s a free tool called f2c, and the tool even works far better than the tool for VB6 to VB#, but the resulting C code isn’t maintainable and ongoing maintenance still has to be done in the original language version.

    2. People say that VB6 is still working, but actually sometimes it isn’t. Last week I posted an example in MSDN newsgroup vb.bugs. The compiler generates bad code for a program that one of our customers has been running for 8 years, and the compiler generates even worse code after the program has extensions that the customer ordered from us. I posted a small example of how to reproduce it. For one problem VB6 Japanese screws it up 100% of the time and VB6 US screws it up 25% of the time; for another problem they both screw it up 75% of the time. Even if Microsoft announces paid support for VB6, I bet there’ll be a working compiler for VB6 on Linux before Microsoft fixes theirs.

  26. Michael Palmer says:

    I agree with Jason Marsell. None of us can stop the future from coming. .NET is the future and VB6 is quickly becoming like cassette tapes versus DVDs. I understand the current investment in VB6 code, but come on! How long can MS successfully support legacy code while still innovating into the future??

    Programmers are the biggest complainers. You all sound like old ladies complaining about the telegraph being replaced by VOIP. If us humans are good at one thing, that’s adapting to different situations. This is no different…. adapt, or find a new career.

  27. S. Somasegar says:

    Hi Norman,

    I would love to have the VB team follow up with you on the VB6 compiler issue that you mention. Can you tell me how we can get in touch with you – you can send me mail at somase@microsoft.com.

    – somasegar

  28. Jason Marsell says:

    Soma,

    Nicely done. It’s nice to see Microsoft folks lending personalized service, after so many people complain about Microsoft teams continuously ignoring their needs.

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  32. joe bloke says:

    Micro$oft annoy me at the best of times, now that we have Vista theres serious compatibility issues between software and hardware … hmm, do we see a pattern immerging?

  33. joe bloke says:

    Just incase anyone was wondering what this had to do with the current topic, I was using Vista compatibility issues in the same context as the VB6 -> .NET compatibility issues. I myself still use VB6 to this day, but don’t solely limit myself to it, I use Delphi, C++ and .NET so…

  34. joe bloke says:

    And just to be smart, I should call it Vi$ta…lol

  35. VB6 Fan says:

    And now in 2014 VB6 is still more popular than VB.Net.

    Vote for an updated Visual Basic 6 at

    visualstudio.uservoice.com/…/3440221-bring-back-classic-visual-basic-an-improved-versi

  36. Sten2005 says:

    2015 and still the VB6 issue is the same.

    The VB6 community still requires VB6 programming to be updated (or open sourced). And Microsoft still won't do so, and fail to give reasons.

        visualstudio.uservoice.com/…/3440221-bring-back-classic-visual-basic-an-improved-versi

    And Microsoft still seem to think that VB6 developers will still move to .Net, even now.

    Who would use a Microsoft language knowing Microsoft will abandon you ?