.NET: Too Little Progress
Five years into Visual Basic 3, the language was soaring on its way to becoming a classic. A reader asserts .NET is not following the same trajectory.
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.NET: Too Little Progress
Editor in Chief Patrick Meader made an interesting point in his recent Editor's Note, "Five Years Sees Progress, Work Ahead" [March 2005]: ".NET is now half the age that Visual Basic was when Microsoft originally released .NET. Visual Basic was on version 3 of the language at the five-year mark, a watershed for the language."
Five years into "VB Classic," the language was on a roll, well on its way to establishing itself as the most widely used single programming language ever, even if that number later shrunk when it was no longer convenient for VB to have been so popular. The original VB was flat-out revolutionary in the way it simplified and distilled programming tasks into reusable objects that were often as simple to use as dragging controls onto a form and setting a few properties.
Five years into .NET, we're still waiting for a second major version of the product. For all the hoopla and constant media attention to what's going on in .NET in VSM and other programming-related magazines, the state of .NET isn't substantially different now than it was when the tool was releasedat least from a programmer's perspective. We're also still waiting for a version that understands what exactly Microsoft provided with the original Visual Basic. It isn't simply whether the current version of Visual Basic .NET is Visual Basic (it isn't; there have been far too many seemingly frivolous changes for it to be the same language), but what it lets you do. The original Visual Basic let developers of all stripes and abilities get work done. Real work. Meaningful work.
.NET lets you do some tasks well. It is well suited to writing applications that interface with the outside world over the Internet. But it feels like a real step down in writing the kinds of applications that most of us in-the-trenches developers still write. We're not all writing e-commerce apps. I don't need services. Really, I don't. Internet access for my applications is limited, if available at all. Some of my apps are used in niche departments inside my company, apps I put together in a couple days sometimes, but which have tangible value to those who use them. Visual Basic 6 remains a better tool for writing these kinds of apps than Visual Basic .NETalthough I'm usually compelled to use the latter by corporate policy.
.NET has some tall shoes to fill as the language of choice for writing software on Windows. The original Visual Basic started a revolution in programming more or less by accident, it seems, and now Microsoft has to contend with the legacy of its own programming language. Five years into .NET, the new platform doesn't just have a ways to go, to paraphrase Mr. Meader's editorial. It has a ways to go to find the starting line before it can become the kind of tool I need and want.
Peter Banks, Green Bay, Wis.
Welcome Back, Francesco
As a longtime reader of VSM, I'm pleased you've brought Francesco Balena back to the magazine. He's always been one of my favorite writers, so it's been fun to read his stuff again. I feel like I've reconnected with a long-lost friend. I especially enjoyed his most recent .NET 2 the Max column, "Databind Objects and Collections" [April 2005]. It was a fresh take on an old subject, and I learned about an approach that simply would not have occurred to me on my own. That is the whole point of reading magazines like this one.
I confess I miss the old days, when VSM had two to three articles in every issue I wanted to read. Nevertheless, having Francesco back is a step in the right direction, and I've liked the recent direction of other articles you've run. I just want more of thema lot more of them, please.
Vijay Balachandar, New York
This story was written or compiled based on feedback from the readers of Visual Studio Magazine.