What they aren’t telling you about VB6 support

This last couple of days there’s been some posts by Microsoft people trying to re-assure folks that VB6 support is going to continue for some period of time.  But what they aren’t telling you is …

As some of you may know, VB6 is at SP6.  That’s frozen now for time infinite despite the known problems with SP6.  And yes SP6 did bring about new bugs, so installing SP6 on a system can break a happily working SP5 app.

In fact a lot of people have been deliberately staying away from SP6 because of it.  Only last month or so Microsoft released an update to it’s AntiSpyware software which is written in VB6 of course.  The question is which runtime did they distribute, SP5 or  SP6 ??  A: SP5.  Yep they don’t even trust their own last SP.

So now as Microsoft walks away from providing free service packs, and leaves us with the last set of introduced bugs, you now have to rely on all vendors to play nice with each other, and hope that Microsoft doesn’t release updates for the common components Office uses or for XP.  If they do, you will need to keep different build versions for all your development to ensure they work. 
Note: you are not licensed to distribute those components that ship with Office or XP.

That is, the ability to simply specify the latest service pack, and point someone to a web site is now gone.

What still exists of course is phone support (for a fee) which I’ve never had to use, and hot fixes (for a fee) which thankfully I haven’t had to use yet.  As SP6 isn’t going to be fixed, and considering Office and XP will still do their own thing there, then I expect this is one that may need to be used in the not too distant future

9 Comments so far

  1.   David M. Kean on March 13th, 2005          


    I am interested Bill if you still support versions of your product that are 6 years old and 2 (nearly 3) version cycles behind?

  2.   Bill McCarthy on March 13th, 2005          

    Hey David,

    Where do you get 6 years old ? You are aware Microsoft Spyware which was *only* just released in the last couple of months is written in vB6 aren’t you ?

    Personally I don’t own any significnat VB6 code as I was one of the first to move to VB.NET. But I am aware enough to see that many companies and individuals do. Just about every developer survey will tell you there are still millions working with VB6 *today*, not 6 years old.

  3.   David M. Kean on March 13th, 2005          

    VB6 was released at the start of 1999, which is 6 years ago.

    I don’t doubt that there are companies still working with VB6 code, but do you seriously believe that Microsoft should continue to give mainstream support to these companies until they are finished with VB6?

    I was talking to a well-known Australian Microsoftie last week and he made the comment that most of the people that are making a fuss over this don’t even call product support services. Even those that do. have most likely used the two free support requests they received with their product anyway. Because that’s all we are talking about, two free support calls!

    I think that those that are still holding onto VB6’s lifeless corpse are worried. They’re worried that because they haven’t updated their skill set (whether it be because VB.NET looks too daunting or because they are too comfortable where they are) that they are going to be out of a job soon, and that mainstream support ending has made that inevitability, that little closer…

  4.   Bill McCarthy on March 13th, 2005          

    Hey David,

    I think you are entirely missing the point. Pretending that all VB6 apps are 6 years old is hardly conducive to talking about the real issues, nor is saying all people coding VB6 will soon be out of a job. I think if you talk to some of the top consultants in Australia and World Wide, you’d be amazed how many are still working with clients who have VB6 code assets. These people aren’t going to be out of a job, nor are the people working at those companies. Reality is, as cool as .NET may be, there really is no need to re-write a lot of existng applications to take advantage of some of the things .NET has to offer. In fact telling people to re-write their existing applciations now, as winforms is about to move into deprecation mode and Longhorn API is only a year or two away would probably be the worst advice anyone could give them at present.

    Anyway this has drifted so far away from the actual issue of the pending DLL hell ….

    So anwyay, please don’t start saying folks are all going to loose their jobs, that all VB6 apps are 6 years old, that no-one is still using VB6. All those statements coudln’t be further from the truth. Look at any recent developer survey. The number is still in the millions.

    If it doesn’t imapct you, good luck to you, but let’s not pretend the issue is not real.

  5.   joel Dubow on March 16th, 2005          

    All the focus is on the development community, but non software developer users, the millions of amateurs, use VBA to customize word in lots of domain specific ways. It is a big selling point for Office. Office is a mid-range product whose shortcomings can be compensated by third party or self developed customizations. If that capability goes down the tube then the attractiveness of alternatives goes up a lot. Thus the user community could end up playing as big a role as developers. This user community typcally have jobs that are in areas other than microsoft won’t lose their jobs no matter what Microsoft does.

  6.   mappin on April 13th, 2005          

    Well Isnt The . Net framework supposed to support any language???

    maybe someone will write a vb classic compiler for .NET

    The in the meantime for those of you that wrote code in VB6 and have been left hi and dry you shouldnt me surprised at all.

    When VB went from 16 bit to 32 bit the same thing happend and there was exactly the same problem … with backward compatbility…. or have you all forgotten the VBX -> OCX night mares

    Funny though, it was about that time that Delphi suddenly became hugely popular… because Delphi developers had no such upgrade issues….. (and it was way superior)

    Its pretty sad that MS managed to spread so much FUD that delphi began to fade away….

    Interestingly Borland has just released Delphi for .NET 2005 and with minute adjustments (mostly conditional compiler directives) all the delphi samples recompile in .net pretty much with out fuss….


    So those guys still smart enough to make their own choice and use delphi… can now

    compile to either

    Native win32


    Native Linux (in many cases).

    All from the same source code

    All from the same IDE

    All from the same Components…(delphi components are written in delphi)

    Eat your heart out. smile

  7.   grapjaske on April 25th, 2005          

    Invest in Delphi and end up waisting money.

    Delphi was from day 1 OO, VB6 hardly was.

    Now the OO power is available to VB programmers.But it comes at a price and that price is adapting you way of programming and rewritting code.

    You gain an environment that’s so dominant/sophisticated that Borland is has adapted Delphi to fit in. (Making it easier to mover over to C# or VB dot net )

    And yes, VB6 is still used in many companies including mine.

    And yes, as all VB6 programmers I had a GENmodule

    And yes, the screen handling is less easy

    But I must say, I preffer dot net above VB6

  8.   MDWait on May 6th, 2005          

    Background: I have been working on mainframe computers since 1986. Please spare me the BS that mainframes are out-of-date; no longer used. Yes, we still use ASM & Cobol II.

    I also run my own VB development shop that supports products that we initially wrote in 1986 – and have been updating ever since (refer to http://www.ebt.net). We have 13 products; over 600,000 lines of code.

    Here’s my point: Large banks, large insurance companies – still use COBOL2. Why – because they have an investment in that code. If you don’t run a business where you actually have to support lots of clients and interfaces – the point is probably lost on you. Microsoft has simply told the developers – go screw yourself and your investment. All you have to do is……. well that is BS.. We use VB6 because it stable; capable of working on many platforms.

    If I have to "convert my code" AND/OR basically re-build programs from scratch – it would be worth my time to move to a platform that I KNOW will be useable 5 years from. It is obvious to even the most casual observer – that Microsoft is saying "count on the platform ‘X’ " until we have a new platform. Yes – Delphi – looks better all the time

    Finally – who is still on VB6??? Well lets see: mmm – Microsoft, American Airlines, EDS, CSC just to name a few.

    Microsoft has to remember that most developers are in the business of supporting and developing new software for their – clients…. not forthe love of learning and converting to yet one more thing.

    It is this mind-set from Microsoft that has allowed me to convince our management to pull-out every flipping Microsoft Exchange Server and go to a mail system that is stable. Yes – there were patchs for Microsoft Exchange – and they have new platform… but the point is – I don’t care. I am not in the business of helping Microsoft and learning new patches and new fixes; I am in the business of helping my clients. By being a VB6 Developer – I had always thought that is the way Microsoft looked at us(as their clients)… but it simply not true.


  9.   tim on July 14th, 2005          

    It blowsmy mine how many newbie programmers use that "support a XX year old legacy app" mantra.

    almost ALL telephone companies, airlines and other LARGE businesses are running on apps that are 6-30 years old and YES support is still available. Hell many critical systems are running on older sun servers with an OS from 10+ years ago.

    Fools complain about supportting an "old" app. This may be true for the consumer toy grade applications you can buy at best buy or for home use, but enterprise and commercial apps are expected to run for a very long time and be supported for a very, very long time. when your customer pay’s you $35,000.00 a year in maintaince contracts you can not take a "snotty" attitude with them, look down your nose at them and say "upgrade" if they want to stay with version 1.0 because it works then you support it or tell that customer that your competition is more willing to help them.

    I can not count how many time the new "improved .NET" version that was fast-tracked out the door was 10 times worse than the old VB6 version that has worked fine over the past 3 years.

    That is why any .NET upgrades from our vendors here require a 12 month testing process or submit to a sourcecode review before we accept the upgrade.