Visual Basic protest won't go away

Builder: Developers angered by Microsoft's decision to drop free support for Visual Basic 6.0 plan to flood an online chat held by the company's senior vice-president of server and tools

The protest to save "classic" Visual Basic that started last week is not going away — with Microsoft execs set to face the music in a Web chat on Friday.

More than 2,500 people have signed a petition, including 228 who have had the title of Most Valuable Professional bestowed on them by Microsoft, asking the software giant not to stop offering free support for the widely used Visual Basic 6.0 in its Visual Studio developer product.

The protesters will put their concerns to Eric Rudder, Microsoft's senior vice-president of server and tools later today, in a Web chat set up by Microsoft. The chat, scheduled for 1000 West Coast time (1800 GMT), is intended to discuss and promote the new features in Visual Studio 2005, known as Whidbey. The protesters plan to arrive online en masse, according to eWeek, and will ask why there is no support for the older language.

Microsoft's product schedules mean that mainstream support for Visual Basic 6 will end on March 31. Developers say that Microsoft's upgrade path to VB.NET, the language in Visual Studio, is not practical and that the move sets a "dangerous precedent of Microsoft declaring their customers' data to be disposable".

Microsoft is attempting to calm the issue down. It plans to introduce enhancements in the forthcoming edition of Visual Basic 2005 meant to "bring back" some ease-of-use features that appeal to VB developers, according to S. "Soma" Somasegar, the corporate vice-president of Microsoft's tools division.

A detailed explanation of the future of VB6 came in Somasegar's blog.

"What’s actually happening is that we’re transitioning from a free support model for VB6 to a paid support model," he says. VB developers who bought VB6 through MSDN will still be able to use the pre-paid support incidents that they were given when they bought it, and there will be "custom" support contracts available till 2012.