Microsoft Reaffirms Fate of Visual Basic

Microsoft updated its programming languages strategy, confirming that Visual Basic will remain a going concern even though it's still relegated to second-rate status when compared to C# and F#.

The gist of the update, as author Kathleen Dollard said several times in the update blog post and on social media, is that "You won't find big changes."

There were changes for VB, though, as documented in the company's "Annotated Visual Basic language strategy," which was updated on the same day as Dollard's post (Feb. 6).

In that post, Dollard said, "We remain committed to Visual Basic and continue to invest in maintaining C# interop and Visual Studio features for folks that love Visual Basic or want a stable language."

The corresponding and updated VB guidance says: "We will ensure Visual Basic remains a straightforward and approachable language with a stable design. The core libraries of .NET (such as the BCL) will support VB and many of the improvements to the .NET Runtime and libraries will automatically benefit VB. When C# or the .NET Runtime introduce new features that would require language support, VB will generally adopt a consumption-only approach and avoid new syntax. We do not plan to extend Visual Basic to new workloads. We will continue to invest in the experience in Visual Studio and interop with C#, especially in core VB scenarios such as Windows Forms and libraries."

That's not too different from the company's remarks way back in 2020, when the .NET team said "we do not plan to evolve Visual Basic as a language."

Dollard this week also said, "We remain committed to full support for all three languages. We are also committed to open source, backwards compatibility, and aggressive language evolution for C# and F#. We took the time to reconsider, adjust and recommit to our strategy. You remain the reason we are passionate about language, and engaging with the community is a primary driver for language evolution."

A Graphic Accompanying a UserVoice Post Asking To Bring Back VB6
[Click on image for larger view.] A Graphic Accompanying a UserVoice Post Asking To Bring Back VB6 (source: Microsoft UserVoice)

Visual Basic, especially "classic" VB, attracted a loyal following, with many projects (like this from 2015) emerging over the years devoted to keeping it alive despite Microsoft having moved on in 2002 with VB.NET. There have also been some open source alternatives proffered (like Visual Basic Open Source alternative - OpenXava).

Also, in 2021, we noted, "'Modern Visual Basic' Mercury Language Debuts." We have reported on many VB-related initiatives over the years, but interest in the language does seem to have slacked recently. There wasn't even the usual uproar among devotees that usually accompany such Microsoft announcements that mention VB.

On a social media service owned by Elon Musk, a user this week asked Dollard about "Thoughts on dropping Visual Basic?" to which she replied, "Why would we do that? Many developers prefer it and I think our job is to support people writing great software in whatever language they want to use." Otherwise, there wasn't much VB discussion in the comments section beyond, "Love it. 'C# is widely used. F# explores new paradigms. VB... Is VB.'"

So there you have it, those coders out there who still make a living with the language -- like a guy deep in the Rocky Mountains of northwest Montana -- can continue to do so, for whatever reason.

As long as they don't need new workloads or syntax or any other "aggressive language evolution."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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