Microsoft Plots the End of Visual Basic

Posted on March 12, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Windows with 47 Comments

Microsoft said this week that it will support Visual Basic on .NET 5.0 but will no longer add new features or evolve the language.

“Starting with .NET 5, Visual Basic will support Class Library, Console, Windows Forms, WPF, Worker Service, [and] ASP.NET Core Web API … to provide a good path forward for the existing VB customer who want [sic] to migrate their applications to .NET Core,” the .NET team wrote in a post to the Microsoft DevBlogs. “Going forward, we do not plan to evolve Visual Basic as a language … The future of Visual Basic … will focus on stability, the application types listed above, and compatibility between the .NET Core and .NET Framework versions of Visual Basic.”

When Microsoft released the .NET version of Visual Basic, originally called Visual Basic .NET, alongside C# at the beginning of the .NET era, the two languages were evolved together and had roughly identical feature sets. But this changed over time, with professional developers adopting C# and many fans of classic VB simply giving up on the more complex but powerful .NET versions of the environment. Today, virtually all of Microsoft’s relevant developer documentation is in C# only, with VB source code examples ever harder to find.

Worse, Microsoft in 2017 announced that its original C#/VB co-development strategy was over. Only C# would get all of the new features, while VB would focus on the simpler and more approachable scenarios that it once dominated. But that never really happened, and Microsoft effectively abandoned VB. This week’s announcement just makes it official.

What this means to VB developers is that they might be able to bring their existing codebases forward to .NET Core or, soon, to .NET 5.0, which will replace both the traditional .NET and the open-source and cross-platform .NET Core when it’s released in late 2020. The issue is that not all legacy technologies will be supported going forward, so developers using WebForms, Workflow, or Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) will need to stick with classic .NET. Those applications will continue to work and be supported until the underlying Windows versions are retired; classic .NET support life cycles are tied to the Windows versions on which they were initially deployed.

Microsoft also notes that VB developers will occasionally benefit from improvements to Visual Studio.

“Visual Studio regularly adds new features to improve the experience for developers, including those using Visual Basic and either .NET Core or .NET Framework,” the .NET team adds. “An example is the recent addition of IntelliCode for Visual Basic.”

This is a sad day, and one that hits me personally. I started my writing career with Visual Basic 3, went on to write several books about VB and its various variants, and most recently wrote an entire Notepad clone called .NETpad in Visual Basic, Windows Forms, and the .NET Framework.

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