.NET Reflector is Dead

Posted 2011-03-11.

The title is relative to how I look at it. .NET Reflector isn't really dead, but went commercial in a REALLY, REALLY bad way. Let me explain...

On February 2, 2011 Red Gate announced that starting with version 7 .NET Reflector would become a paid-for (starting at $35) product. Fine, no problem with that. They are a commercial company and I completely respect their decision to charge for a previously free product.

What strikes me as TOTAL BULLSHIT is that they also decided forcibly apply that policy to ALL previous versions of reflector.

Kudos to Red Gate for a perfect implementation of backwards compatibility. Maybe they'll be bought out by the one of the world's biggest software corporations who are also known for perfect backwards compatibility and make even more money!
Or even better, maybe we should all follow Red Gate's lead and forcibly remove all prior / outdated versions of any software we've ever written for any of our customers. Then we don't have to worry about backwards compatibility in the first place. Pure genius!

For those of who have never used the tool, you might be wondering "what the hell is this guy talking about"? From at least a couple of years ago when I began using it, .NET reflector has always auto-updated the version. It was a nice touch; you always had the latest and greatest version.

Looking at it now, however, it seems a little too convenient. Maybe more something along the lines of a pre-planned back door for Red Gate to execute a simple marketing plan:

  • Develop a great free product to reel in as many developers as you can.
  • Patiently bide your time for a few years to get those developers semi-dependent on it.
  • Pull the rug out from under them so they cannot EVER use the product again, unless they pay for it.

If you didn't follow the link above the auto-update feature allowed Red Gate to make .NET Reflector a ticking time bomb. For those people who run the free versions, instead of auto-updating to the paid version, reflector is deleted from your computer!

At the time of writing this article their web site had been completely redesigned. I had to use Google to find the relevant forum. In case they decide to delete the forum completely here's the (currently at time of writing) unanswered post:

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:23 am
Post subject: I understand charging to get a new version, but ...
I understand charging to get a new version, but ...
So, I run my old, free, version of Reflector. It asks if I want to automatically update. I say no. It DELETES the existing .exe file.
What gives?
In all my years as a programmer, I've NEVER encountered anything like this.
I assumed I would need to pay went I wanted to work with .Net 4.0. But I hadn't got to that point yet.
I wasn't expecting any support, any use of any resources of Redgate.
But I did expect that I could keep using the version on my PC, until it was so out of date, it was no longer useful to me.
Any official comment on this situation?
*EDIT* To Clarify, I am asking for an official comment on how Redgate justifies doing something no other company has ever attempted: yank an old outdated version. This is different than not continuing to update [keep up to date with new functionality] for free - that I understand. The simple ability to continue using a pre-existing free version, to the degree that it continues to be useful, caveat emptor.
Bottom line: handled properly, I would have bought a paid version, once its benefit over the outdated version was sufficient for me. Handled improperly -- I will wait until a certain competitor picks up the slack. Their decompiler may not be as elegant as Reflector. But if they no longer have to compete with a free Reflector, they are likely to improve (they can justify further development).

I couldn't have put it into words any better! $35 is NOT a big deal if and when I start developing with the .NET 4 framework. With the way they forcibly remove old versions, however, I wouldn't pay Red Gate a penny for any of their software.

And please don't get the wrong impression - I'm not saying or implying there is anything wrong with .NET Reflector itself. On the contrary, it is a VERY good product. And to reiterate I DO NOT have a problem with making version 7 and beyond a commercial product. But I DO think the people who made the decision to forcibly wipe all prior free versions off the face of the earth are a bunch of idiots.

For those who are of the same opinion, there's hope! ILSpy is an open-source .NET assembly browser and decompiler. Hopefully I'll have time to download and evaluate it in the near future.