Is VB the n*gg*r of programming languages ?

When VB moved to .NET the claim was made it would be a first class citizen on the .NET platform. Despite that claim VB is often not supported in new SDKs or emerging platforms. Two major platforms where Microsoft has chosen to omit VB are:

  • XNA
  • .NET Micro Framework

Over the last month or so I’ve noticed an alarming trend in SDKs released that provided C# samples but no VB samples.  These SDKs include:

  • WCF LOB Adapter SDK
  • Health Vault SDK
  • Live ID SDK
  • Windows Search SDK

to name just a few. Typically when the issue of why isn’t VB included is raised, the response is to blame resource constraints or similar. A typical example is the reply from Eric Gunnerson (formerly of the C# team) :

Currently, all our examples are C#. If there is sufficient partner interest in providing the samples in VB we will consider doing that, but we are currently focused on expanding our sample set.

When quizzed on this further, Eric elaborated to say:

It’s hard to give an answer to the “how much interest” question because it would depend on a lot of other factors, but my guess is that we’d need feedback from a number of partners for us to commit the resources.

Just how many does it take remains un-answered.  I would have thought if it was a “first class citizen” it shouldn’t take any, but surely one voice should suffice.  Perhaps they need VB’ers to gather together and protest loudly and write petitions ?  I’m sure we’ve all seen how successful that has been in the past.

Even when people inside Microsoft do hear the VB’ers asking for VB to be supported, the response is often just to ignore that.  Take for example the XNA framework. Over a year ago Gary Kacmarcik of Microsoft wrote :

From the cries of outrage that I’ve seen so far, I would be surprised if VB was not supported as a firstclass citizen in a future release.

I wonder if he really was surprised when the new version was recently announced and VB was yet again omitted.  Earlier this year I heard MVPs raise the same question. The response from Microsoft was that XNA was too hard for VB’ers.  From a recent newsgroup posting, a VFP MVP summed this up well:

The last time I attended a summit, the VFP crowd was shoehorned into a VS
presentation where this was made abundantly clear. The speaker described VB
developers as “needing special help”, and various other denigrating and
downright insulting remarks followed. Amazingly arrogant and insulting.

We walked out en masse after about 15 minutes.

However, in some areas though Microsoft does go out of it’s way to ensure VB is well represented. Joe Stagner from Microsoft explains why the “How do I ?” videos are recorded in VB instead of C#. Joe says “There are more VB programmers than C# developers“. I’m not quite sure why he felt one group are “programmers” and the other “developers”, but one thing is clear is that Microsoft believes there are more VBers than C#ers. 

Microsoft itself primarily chooses to use C# internally, yet , even though they know there are more VB customers, they don’t take any balancing action to ensure that VB is included in the SDKs or frameworks. It’s no coincidence that VB is omitted from the cutting edge technologies, but extra care is given to ensure that the “How do I? ” videos are in VB. It’s all part of the patronizing viewpoint Microsoft portrays of it’s VB customers.  Hence the title of this post.

Many of you may remember John and Yoko Lennon’s song “woman is the n*gg*r of the world“. When asked about the song, John quoted Congressman Ron Dellums, the then Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus:

If you define n*gg*rs as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society is defined by others, then good news! You don’t have to be black to be a n*gg*r in this society.

For VB Microsoft sets the rules, defines the lifestyle and opportunities for the language.  In terms of programming languages, Microsoft chooses to be all white males only (C#) yet takes no affirmative action to ensure VB is treated equally.  It’s not that VB is lesser as a language, it is the way Microsoft treats it, and those who use it, that is the issue of extreme prejudice.

I can’t help but think of the movie “the commitments” when they said “The Irish are the n*gg*rs of Europe“.  More so than the message there, the name of the band…. Microsoft caused a lot of pain to the VB community when they abandoned VB6 and moved to .NET. At the time they promised that the changes would hold VB in good stead as a first class citizen on the .NET framework.  They made a commitment to us all. And for all intensive purposes VB as far as programmatic functionality is concerned is equal to C#, just as man is equal to woman, and man is equal to man. But that’s not the way Microsoft treats it


Sadly, it seems that VB is the n*gg*r of Microsoft’s programming languages.

19 Comments so far

  1.   anon on October 22nd, 2007          

    This ( springs to mind…

    VB is like fingerpainting.
    except it’s not fun.

  2.   mind on October 22nd, 2007          

    you know, if you personally have gotten past “nigger”‘s vulgar racist roots, and believe it can and should be used colloquially (especially in this context, as opposed to an informal greeting), you might as well just spell it out instead of using stupid asterisks.

    if you don’t believe that “nigger” should be used freely, then putting stars there hardly fixes anything, and probably just showcases closeted racism.

  3.   Theo on October 22nd, 2007          

    Surely you don’t mean that, Bill? Tell me it ain’t so!

  4.   mind on October 22nd, 2007          

    *cough*. in my above comment, “nigger” should say “n_i-g/g-e_r” (remove the crap though).

  5.   alunj on October 22nd, 2007          

    Funny – previously, I’ve seen a large number of complaints from people who ask why there are so many .NET samples in VB but not in C#, and it was mooted that there were a few reasons:
    1. C# developers by and large can translate from VB – the same is less true in the other direction.
    2. VB is used by more people than C#
    3. There are more automatic translators from VB to C# than vice-versa.
    Consider submitting to Microsoft a conversion of some random sample code into your favourite language, and then ask them why they don’t have that on their site.

  6.   William on October 22nd, 2007          

    You know what’s funny Bill? not too long ago in a place that we’re not allowed to mentio npublicly, a member of a certain group used to make political statements about ***** Jones Syndrome all the time. Except he used it as a racial slur and used it in an offensive manner. He was a hard core ‘progressive’ so he got a pass on it. It’s mind blowing to me how much crap you’re catching over this and if you compare it to the crickets chirping each time he used that phrase, mind blowing.

    You definitely should have chosen a different word to describe it, but I for one konw you well enough to know you are absolutely not a racist and don’t use language to hurt others. In fact, you’re one of the more PC folks out there. I’ve been watching the firestorm erupt though… whew. At least this time though when Susan gets the complaints about “bill” it won’t be Ryan ;-).

    Good luck man.

  7.   Steele on October 22nd, 2007          

    Rock On Bill

    You hit the nail on the head, hopefully a little controversy will bring out some action!

  8.   bill on October 22nd, 2007          

    Hey Bill,

    Don’t get the Jones syndrome slur ? A quick google on it just showed it as a rare disease. Next best match was Jessica Jones comics. I didn’t see it but wasn’t it also one of those religious groups ? Waco ?? Anyway, I think that probably just shows anything can be used as a slur and/or a racial slur when referring to someone.

    As far as the n*gg*r term goes, I’m beginning to see that some folks don’t see past the racial slur aspect even when used in a context that couldn’t possibly be interpreted as such. Instead it’s like they have a fear of the word. A friend from the USA told me yesterday that “only black people and comedians are allowed to use it”. Even writing that just now I’m shaking my head in utter disbelief. (BTW: I thought it was politically incorrect to refer to Afro-Americans as “black people” ?) At no time in history has the n*gg*r word ever been more popular in American music and movies. Afro-Americans are also re-shaping the word to be a term of endearment, a greeting amongst people with a common interest/ancestry. Yet for some folks, despite the dictionary definitions,, they can’t tolerate a white person using that word. Ironically it seems to be middle class white people who object to it most.
    So here we have a word that, where, because some folks used it as a racial slur, American’s are trying to stop people all over the world using. So what word do you use to talk about the oppression and inequalities that Afro-Americans have faced (and in ways continue to face) in the USA ?
    BTW: The irony of all this is quite surreal. I’ve used a term, correctly at least in my opinion. Since the issue was raised with me, I’ve looked at the word and it’s uses a lot. I cannot see how any clear thinking person could interpret my usage of the term any different than usage (3) in merriamwebster. But what I’ve seen from a few is the heart of the problem. Some folks think that the word is the problem. It isn’t. It’s the way it’s used, and it’s the way people treat other people that’s the real issue. Racial and cultural intolerances arrow vision, seeking to inflict or punish one lot of peoples because of differences etc. Sadly it’s been those who have claimed that my uttering the term means they should ban me, kind of displays those cultural intolerances all over. In their puritan strive to be PC, they inflict the same crimes all over again.

  9.   bill on October 22nd, 2007          

    a friend just said this to me on IM which I really think is worth repeating here:

    “times being what they are, i don’t see how your message doesn’t get lost in the title of your message”

  10.   bill on October 22nd, 2007          

    Hi Alun,

    It’s worth making a note each time you come across it. There’s only a handful of times that samples don’t translate well form one language into the other. On one hand there’s late binding with COM, and on the other side of the equation there’s pointers and unsafe code.
    For the most part I think you’ll find that any leaning towards VB will be in the “How to” areas, and any cutting edge or “advanced” technologies will be in the C# camp. That’s the way it seems Microsoft attempts to divide them 🙁

  11.   bill on October 22nd, 2007          

    Hi “mind”,

    I think you’ll find the answer to your original question in your own reply 😉

  12.   bill on October 22nd, 2007          

    Thanks Nick, Steele, Bill and Chris 🙂

    BTW: I may disagree with some of you on the interpretation of the n word, but all of you have managed to look past that difference and see the major issue.

  13.   Mike McIntyre on October 23rd, 2007          


    Thank you for standing up for Microsoft’s second-class citzens – its Visual Basic customers.

    Microsoft makes it harder for its Visual Basic customers to learn and utilize technologies such as XNA, the .NET Micro Framework, and HealthVault when it decides to not provide VB examples in the SDKs for those products.

    Why can’t Microsoft tell its employees to stop ridiculing VB and VB developers – and make it stick? This has been going on for years now and from what I have personally experienced, its getting worse – not better. What a strange concept for a public corporation – allowing employees to alienate customers. How much does that contribute to the bottom-line?

  14.   bill on October 24th, 2007          

    Thanks Mike 🙂

    The sad thing is it really wouldn’t take much to address many of the issues. All they really need is a central team that can provide translation and education services to the other teams.

  15.   Shane on October 24th, 2007          

    Drawing analogies between inconvenienced Visual Basic programmers and groups of people fighting for equality and civil rights is inappropriate, borderline offensive, and makes it hard to take you seriously. It makes your tiny issue look even tinier. You do yourself a disservice by framing your argument the way you did.

  16.   bill on October 24th, 2007          

    Hi Shane,

    Even the existence of any programming langue is totally insignificant compared to the issues of civil rights, of that there should be no doubt. To talk about prejudice within programming languages is not an attempt to draw comparisons of orders of magnitude to human rights. Microsoft terms the way they treat languages as “citizenship”. The inclusion of a language in Visual Studio holds no comparison to the struggle for the right to vote people are fighting today in the world. The whole “citizenship” usage in terms of programming language is rhetoric especially when it isn’t accompanied by any bills of rights or any solid policies to ensure they are treated equally.

  17.   Bill Booth on October 27th, 2007          

    Excellent article. I hope the title acts as an attention getter to get more people to read it. Unfortunately, I don’t think this or any other article will change any attitudes at Microsoft.

    VB has been one of Microsoft’s most successful products. Microsoft’s thanks to those that have invested their time with it is to hold them in contempt at best. I am sick of their supercilious attitude.

  18.   Anthony D. Green, MCPD on November 23rd, 2007          


    Great title. As a representative of the black community I extend you a full pardon for your censored use of the word nigger. I myself will make no attempt to censor it – not because I’m black – but because I think it’s ridiculous for adults to go around cowaring at words like school children (who interestingly enough are not nearly so bashful).

    That aside, about a year ago I was talking to an Israeli friend of mine about the language war and the comparison between being jewish and being a VB developer. It’s not about orders of magnitude – it’s about random, concentrated, reckless hatred. People just hate you and what you do and how you do it for stupid reasons like “I hate the word Dim” and “my right pinky doesn’t get enough exercise in VB”. Maybe this is my fault for taking it so personally.

    As a VB developer I sometimes feel hated. Not because of something I’ve done – in fact I’m very well regarded in almost all my programming circles by C# and VB developers alike (I’m multilingual) – but as a VB developer I feel that the developer community at large does not love me and does not want me to succeed. Microsoft isn’t nearly as vocal about it as the legions of semicolon wielding bigots they pander to but it doesn’t make their actions (and inactions) any less hurtful. They support VB use as an uphill battle and an upstream swim. Version after version they deliver a smack in the face to VB devs everywhere with only the occasional nod of approval and to be honest I’m very tired of it.

    The irony is, I don’t feel nearly this bad about being a black man in America.

  19.   bill on November 26th, 2007          

    Thanks Anthony 🙂 BTW; the censoring of your post to produce *** instead of the “n-word” is something the host does and is not within my control