Browser wars 2

Jon made a good point about the death of VB6 and IE’s reduced market share being symptoms of the same problem. I went back and re-read Joels API war post, it seemed longer than other times I’ve read it, but mostly familiar.

Here is the key part for me:
The first big win was making Visual Basic.NET not backwards-compatible with VB 6.0. This was literally the first time in living memory that when you bought an upgrade to a Microsoft product, your old data (i.e. the code you had written in VB6) could not be imported perfectly and silently. It was the first time a Microsoft upgrade did not respect the work that users did using the previous version of a product.

And the sky didn’t seem to fall, not inside Microsoft. VB6 developers were up in arms, but they were disappearing anyway, because most of them were corporate developers who were migrating to web development anyway. The real long term damage was hidden.

[my emphasis (I’m sure I don’t need to explain!)]

He mentions the ribbon mess in his latest post Martian Headsets, pointing out that the MSDN camp have won the compatibility v new features battle.

I quite liked the idea of IE8 conforming to standards, but I can see the value in backwards compatibility too. In fact the all too apparent disregard for backwards compatibility at MS is my biggest frustration. Sadly that seems to be getting worse, and I’m not sure we are getting sufficient new valuable functionality on return.

In related news here is an early review of OpenOffice 3.0 due out in 6 months or so.

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4 Responses to “Browser wars 2”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    First a quibble. I forget the exact problem bits, but QuickBASIC, the precursor to VB, wasn’t able to compile every BASICA program (saved as plain text) unmodified. Maybe you could say they were effectively different languages, but the same could be said for VB6 vs VB.Net. As I said, a quibble.

    To be fair to Microsoft, at some point compatibility with the past curtails the ability to innovate. Windows seems to have reached that point. But that’s for low-level stuff. The basic GUI doesn’t NEED change, so the rationale for changing it is something else.

    If Microsoft is trying to catch Apple, they’ve missed.

    And I’ll believe Microsoft is serious about the ribbon as the UI of the future as soon as VS adopts it with no option for reverting to the classic UI.

  2. Simon Says:

    Harlan I’m all for breaking backwards compatibility if it brings genuine benefits. Some VBA changes have broken old code, but I don’t mind that because they have been to tighten up data types and make code more robust.

    I have never seen a real benefit in .net that would outweigh the cost of a re-write. And I don’t see any benefit in the ribbon to outweigh the cost of re-learning where the commands went this time out.

    I can see the value of what they are trying to do with Vista security for example, and I can see the pain of trying to migrate people from less secure approaches.

  3. Dick Kusleika Says:

    Do you think it’s just unfortunate that they named it VB.net? If they had called it Visual E.net, then nobody would have expected it to run VB6 code. To me, saying VB.net is related to VB6 is like saying C# is related to Perl because they both use letters of the English alphabet in their syntax. OK, maybe there are a few more similarities than that.

  4. Simon Says:

    Dick
    Thats an interesting thought.
    They would have got a right kicking over killing VB dead, but people might have been grateful for a 30% auto conversion rate instead of fuming over the current 80-90%.
    That naming could well prove to be a bit of marketing spin that has backfired big style.
    I think they underestimated the feelings of all the VBA devs they orphaned by killing VB. I think they realised with the classic VB campaign they had messed up badly, but it doesn’t look like they care or are going to change.

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