Visual Basic Reaches 25th Birthday - Microsoft Censors Campaign To Open Source VB6
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 23 May 2016

Visual Basic was launched by Bill Gates at Windows World on May 20, 1991 and since then has gone through has fourteen releases. The pinnacle release, as far as many of are concerned was VB6, the final non-dot-net version. To celebrate VB's Silver Anniversary let's re-open the campaign to open source VB6.


Microsoft takes down request to open source

Update: May 23

Microsoft has merged the request on User Voice with one of the earlier "open source VB" requests. This essentially censors the user's voice without to seeming to be censorship. You can't vote for a declined request, and all votes are returned without being counted or recorded. You can not longer see the original request but Microsoft can simply claim "we merged it with a similar request". 

The original text read:

Microsoft has been asked a number of times to open source VB6. This has been repeatedly rejected without any real reason being given.
However to remove a language from its community without an exceptional reason is an act of vandalism. The new Microsoft claims to back open source, why not in this case?
There is no need for Microsoft to do any more work on the code base - simply open source it and allow the community to keep it alive.
Even if you don't think that VB6 is a language you would ever want to use you should back this proposal simply to allow others the freedom to do so.

It is clear that Microsoft doesn't want to listen and still cannot be trusted with the future of a language. 

We still have no reason for Microsoft's refusal to open source VB6.

An older campaign is asking for VB to be open sourced is currently still open - Vote for it here.

The tactic seems to be working however as there is no focus to express opinion about the issue.


If twenty-five years sounds like a long span watch this video of Bill Gates building a simple app using the original version of Visual Basic  - it makes you realize just how much has changed in the lives of both man and code since.



It also draws attention to Visual Basic's strength - its ease of use. This turned out to be a double-edged sword. With the introduction of .NET and C#, VB.NET was derided as being less sophisticated. Yes, that was the case but there was a large element of hubris in the rush to overthrow the familiar and embrace the new.

The other reason for the poor initial take up of VB.Net was the fact that VB6 had achieved an attractive set of features and many devs were happy to stick with what they knew. And, despite the fact that support for VB6 ended in 2008, many are still in that position, either through choice or because they require to maintain legacy software. 


The Microsoft Blogpost, from Antony D Green @ThatVBGuy, announces "A Celebratiathon", promising readers a series of blog posts looking at:

VB across every era, from VB 1.0 to VB6 to the early days of VB.NET to Roslyn.

What the post glosses over is that this history was blighted by the fork in the road that was .NET and that many Visual Basic fans are highly unsatisfied that the programming environment they cherished is lost to them.



This anniversary gives the IProgrammer team a real sense of deja vu. Turn the clock back just 5 years, Mike James wrote in his tribute, Classic VB is 20 and still missed by many:

Microsoft really should release VB 6 as open source.

If Microsoft wants to celebrate the 20th birthday of VB I can think of no better birthday present to the programming community. Not doing so simply makes the company look mean and still insecure about the future of .NET.

He went on to discuss open sourcing languages in general with:

Why should we trust Microsoft to keep C# going in ten years time? Without a fully open source policy in place then any language under the control of a companies intellectual property rights should be a non-starter.

Since then Microsoft has open sourced C#, VB.NET and Roslyn  but it has explicitly refused to open source VB6.

We reported on the initial refusal back in June 2014. It was made in response to a well-supported request on Visual Studio User Voice, the Microsoft site where we can all make suggestions and vote for suggestions we support. The request in this case was Bring back Classic Visual Basic, an improved version of VB6. This propsal was rejected by Paul Yuknewicz, Group Program Manager for Microsoft Visual Studio Cloud Tools on the grounds that it would involve too much work and he threw in for good measure at the end:

 It is not feasible to open source VB6 tools chain and ecosystem.

Since then Yukewicz has decline related requests by simply citing this decision and a request to re-open the issue was also rejected.

On the other hand, the VB6 runtime is included in Windows 10 with a commitment to keep it available until 2025 - although without any support, something that is frequently requested on User Voice.

Given Microsoft's seemingly whole hearted espousal of open source Yukewicz excuse that it would be too much effort to revive VB6 and give it a new lease of life doesn't seem sufficient reason for refusing to hand it over to the community. Now that .NET Core is itself open sourced there can't be a commercial reason for retaining it as a dead propriety product. So what is the stumbling block?

To celebrate 25 years of VB I've opened a new request on User Voice, 

 On the 25th anniversary of Classic VB, Return It To Its Programmers

Don't deride the attempt to make Classic VB open source if you are happy with .NET. There is no doubt C# and VB .NET are sophisticated well designed languages and perhaps you, like me, have no desire to return to VB6 or anything like it. Vote for the proposal not because you want to use VB6 or that you think it is worth having - Vote for it because a company like Microsoft should not take a language away from its users. 


If you are in favour please go and vote for it and please share the campaign as widely and forcefully as you can.  



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