Microsoft Team Explains Language Stagnation
Microsoft Team Explains Language Stagnation
Written by Mike James   
Friday, 19 July 2013

.... or you could say that they provide excellent valid reasons as to why Visual Basic and C# haven't added any new language features in Visual Studio 2013. It really is a matter of reading the runes. 

You can, of course, read everything at face value and not attempt to draw inferences about the hidden machine beneath the surface of Microsoft and its developer initiatives. Some readers prefer to do this and think that any speculation is simply Microsoft-bashing and unwarranted undermining of the current or future Windows eco system. As a long time Windows programmer I have to say that I detect a change and this current defense of the position of stagnation is welcome but doesn't entirely set my worries to rest.

The Visual Basic Team has decided to explain why there are no new features in C# or Visual Basic in Visual Studio 2013:

"The most important is that we just shipped new versions of these two languages less than a year ago, with support for asynchrony being a major new and impactful language feature in both. Developers are still learning how to integrate and benefit from the asynchrony shift in languages and APIs. We are very excited about the quicker pace of release for VS, but we believe from experience that language versions need a little more time to settle in."

Yes, this makes perfect sense except for the small fact that language enthusiasts (and who else works for a compiler group?) are always seeing ways that their language can be improved. While the explanation is reasonable it reveals a distinct lack of drive and a view of developers as unable to absorb changes. Of course, developers who can't keep up simply ignore the new.

The next reason is equally good:

"There is a more tactical reason for us as well, which is that we are nearly done reimplementing the compilers and language services for Visual Basic and C# from the ground up. You may have heard of this effort as the Roslyn project, and there will be many end user benefits to this work when it ships."

It is claimed that Roslyn will make it easier to implement and test new language features. In short, while it is claimed that the old compilers are great, the future is with the new approach of compiler as a set of services. It is Roslyn that will be used to deliver new features of the languages. 

The real plus point of the blog post is the statement:

"We are actively working on the next versions of Visual Basic and C#. The language design team is in full gear, led by Anders Hejlsberg as usual, and we are considering lots of new language features, big and small. We are looking very much forward to sharing more details about this work as the ideas mature, and to ultimately ship these new language features in a future version of Visual Studio."

Let us hope that this is true, but the silence about new features in C# or Visual Basic, and the fact that Anders Hejlsberg seems very happy playing with TypeScript, is still worrying. As with all explanations that something is missing, the fact that the explanation was necessary simply increases the significance of the "missing". 

The blog post makes sense and could be 100% true, but from an outsider's view point it still seems that there has been a loss of emphasis on making .NET and its languages the best. Of course, the distinction between .NET and the languages is an important one. It seems fairly obvious that Microsoft isn't thinking that .NET is going to be its future savior and it has basically bet the farm on WinRT - but C# and Visual Basic are languages that can be used to develop WinRT applications, even though they take second place to C++. It could be they really do have a future, even if desktop .NET and WPF in particular don't. 

Compare this rate of development to the 5000 new APIs in WinRT.


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