Friday, February 11, 2011

.NET Reflector is becoming a paid-for product

As you may already have learned the famous .NET Reflector created by Lutz Roeder almost a decade ago that was always free to use is becoming a paid-for product thanks to Red Gate Software. The decision is confirming the worst suspicions many had when first heard about Lutz's agreement with the Red Gate and has already created a massive controversy in development communities.

For those who do not remember the .NET Reflector was born in the beginning of 2000s and has quickly become one of the must-have tool for every serious professional .NET developer. A large users community has quickly formed around the tool and many great add-ons have been written by inspired developers. Reflector has influenced great many developers' careers and earned community recognition. Scott Hanselman included the program in his "Ultimate Developer Tool List".

The Reflector's success was growing for over half a decade when out of a sudden the original author of .NET Reflector announced about his decision to stop developing the product and give it over to Red Gate Software in August 2008. One part of the agreement was that
...Red Gate will continue to provide the free community version... [of .NET Reflector]
confirmed by James Moore of Red Gate Software but many had skepticism about that part of the agreement from the very beginning.

During the period of Red Gate's ownership there were not many real improvements to the Reflector except for the annoying built-in "time-bomb" feature forcing one to upgrade to the newer version of the product even though the installed version worked perfectly. Some time ago a paid-for "Pro" version was announced with an obvious reason to raise some money for the owner but based on the Red Gate's plea was not successful among developers. One of the suggested explanations for that is that paid-for functionality was not really of any interest (more creativity, please, Red Gate) for professionals and beside there were already free add-ons doing similar things.

So now Red Gate wants to charge $35 for "a perpetual license, with no time bomb or forced updates" for the version 7 that will come out in early March and promises some new features in V7.

Red Gate claims that they need money to "keep .NET Reflector up-to-date and relevant" and cannot do that "without revenue coming in". That may be true for the Red Gate Software but there is a proven recipe for that: how about make the product open source, put it on Code Plex or any other similar location and let the community take care of its relevancy? To make it even more interesting let's make it a challenge: you, Red Gate, charge for your new shiny V7 but give away the previous version to the open source community and let's see which version survives in a few years. I personally have no doubts on the results.

There is a discussion going on about the Reflector's future on Red Gate's user forum. However if you are a professional developer that uses and loves Lutz Roeder's Reflector I encourage you to share your opinion and vote for the Reflector's future right here in my blog on the right side or answer polls on LinkedIn here and here. Please share the poll with your friends and colleagues.


UPDATE

Interesting list of open-source alternatives to Reflector on Stack Overflow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2425973/open-source-alternatives-to-reflector

To my taste the closest to .NET Reflector user experience is provided by the ILSpy. I am going to try and compare it with the Reflector.


Another UPDATE of May 1, 2011
Apparently free Reflector's lifespan is going to end on May 30, 2011. Today I've started my free copy and saw this alert:



UPDATE of May 31, 2011
Free version of Reflector is finally dead. Now those who does not want to switch to a paid version has to consider alternatives. A couple of new alternatives include:

JustDecompile

Telerik has recently released a beta version of their new JustDecompile, designed to enable easy .NET assembly browsing and decompiling. While Telerik is not know for free software, this product is featured as being free. According to Telerik, "Unlike Open Source alternatives, Telerik JustDecompile benefits from a dedicated development team, which is focused on continuously improving the product in line with your feedback. Telerik is recognized as one of the leading providers of .NET development tools and JustDecompile will benefit from our years of experience in the field."

dotPeek

JetBrains, an author of an extremely popular ReSharper Visual Studio add-in, has recently released a beta version of the dotPeek which is another new and free .NET decompiler with search features from JetBrains. dotPeek has gone public for the first time on Wednesday, May 11, as JetBrains opened an Early Access Program (EAP) that implied regular publishing of pre-release builds. According to JetBrains they are going to keep the product free.


Final Thought

JetBrain's dotPeek has become my tool of choice for the time being. It's functional, free and being updated frequently. For those who also uses JetBrain's ReSharper starting version 6 the dotPeek functionality is built-in and available through the Navigate/To Decompiled Source menu.