For some reason, one guy chose to fire up a flame war this week by writing 101 reasons why Java is better than .NET. Sadly, this is much like my doing a list of 101 reasons why cats are better than dogs. It’s likely to “get a response” and, ultimately, it’s unlikely to sway anyone’s opinion one way or the other (or at least anybody who you care whether their opinion was swayed).
Here’s one of the first “rebuttals” I’ve seen to the list and it tries to go point by point through the first list and say nah, nah, nah to most of it. Pretty much what you would expect and it features the equally non-inflamatory title of “25 pathetic attempts to make .NET look bad”. Lovely…
So normally I’d just blow all this by as yet another useless flamewar like the old Amiga vs. Atari ST, Mac vs. Windows, etc. etc. of old but I think I’ve got a perspective that might be a little different on this. You see, I used to do Windows. Not in a little way, in a big way. I started developing for Windows when Windows 3.0 was in beta and I didn’t stop until mid 2000. In that time I developed software on Windows 3.0, 3.1, 3.1 Multimedia Edition, 95, 98, NT, and 2000. I used Visual Basic from 1.0 on. I developed in C++ using Borland and Microsoft tools. I’ve developed using libraries and APIs that Microsoft put together from COM and DCOM to TAPI and DirectX. I can go on and on about this but the point is that I’ve used Microsoft tools, software, and development kits up one side and down the other and because I worked for a long time at Tandy (now RadioShack) and Tandy worked closely with Microsoft I did a lot of it with beta stuff that the public never saw.
On the other hand, I only started using Java tentatively in 2000 and really went full bore with it when I moved to a .COM in 2001 so my history with it is relatively short. Nevertheless, the differences between the two environments is striking. There’s an old phrase something like, “there’s no religious man like the converted sinner.” I guess that describes me in this case. I see what the hell was wrong with staying with Microsoft so long and now I feel like I should witness for a bit.
So let me look at this list from my perspective as:
Lots of reasons I want .NET to fail and fail badly
- It’s benefits a criminal organization. Not one that’s been found guilty of crimes once or maybe twice, but lots and lots of times. Those crimes are many and varied, but here’s just a few of them: Stac Electronics v. Microsoft, DOJ v. Microsoft, Sun v. Microsoft.
P.S. If you want to split hairs, Stac v. Microsoft isn’t a criminal action, it’s doesn’t stem from a criminal abuse of their monopoly like the other two cases. Instead it was just a case of a small company being driven out of business by willful patent infringement, theft of trade secrets, etc.
- Microsoft isn’t just one thing anymore. It’s too damn big for that. I’m sure even Bill himself knows better than to think that he truly controls the whole ship because it’s become big enough that he can’t possibly know all the projects, people, etc. anymore. But even a really large company still has a kind of collective personality that it exudes and a large part of the personality both internal and external to Microsoft for many years now is that of a total control freak.
If they don’t own it, if they don’t control it, if they didn’t create it, if it doesn’t have a broad stamp from Microsoft on it, then they don’t want it. Sometimes it’s sufficient for the thing to merely exist and they’ll refuse to acknowledge it, other times they need to actively stamp it out because they can’t control it.
When was the last time you can remember Microsoft saying they supported a standard? That is, not something they invented and submitted a RFC for, an actual, take it off the shelf and re-implement it without renaming it or “improving” it so it doesn’t work with anybody else standard. C++? Basic? HTML? A video or audio codec? Java? Anything?
I’m sure there’s something, somebody will point out their excellent support for TCP/IP or something and I’m sure that’s true. But if you were to look at Microsoft as a person in your life, you’d wonder what was wrong with him or her such that so much had to be controlled by that person.
- When your business is selling the operating systems that 90+% of everybody uses, software development tools should not be a profit center.
Why should I have to plunk down a couple of thousand dollars for a “universal subscription” in order to have access to compilers and basic development information? Sun doesn’t have to do that? On this point I’ll quote from the .NET “rebuttal” that I linked to above, “For non-profit use VS.NET can be had pretty cheaply, especially if you know anyone that is in college somewhere.” Pretty cheaply? For a non-profit (that means charities, churches, universities, the hobbiest who is going to give away his work for FREE)… pretty cheaply? Wow. That is well and truly pathetic. To try and justify it, and say, oh well, you can try to scam an educational discount so it won’t be so dear, is even more pathetic.
- Marketing. Have you been “lucky” enough to catch one of the .NET commercials with William H. Gacy telling you how great it is without really ever telling you anything about it? Microsoft doesn’t trust .NET to stand on its own technical merits and it knows it may go like cod-liver oil down the gullets of a lot of people who have seen how the company works behind closed doors even if it were the tech shiznit.
So they are going to pull a page out of Intel’s bum-bum-buh-bum “Intel Inside” playbook and try to sell the brand like it’s sneakers and cola. Trust us, you’ll look cool if you use it, and we’ll keep hammering the brand on TV so somebody who doesn’t have much tech savvy in your organization will ask you if you are using it, or have plans to port to it, or whatever, even if he hasn’t got a clue what “it” is in this case.
- They don’t trust you. They don’t like what they can’t control and they can’t control you. They can try and they always will keep trying but ultimately you are going to see them keep trying to do things and always keep a step towards the door just so they can bolt if they have to. Want to see what I mean? Go visit GotDotNet sometime if you haven’t already been there. It’s the grassroots community website that Microsoft put up to support .NET just in case there wasn’t any grassroots community who actually wanted to do it. Or maybe just in case there was and they couldn’t control it.
Ever been to SourceForge? Of course you have, everybody has because that’s one of the hubs of all open source projects. You can go there and get the source of thousands of cool open source projects and it really serves the community well. There’s even hundreds of projects now that list C# among their programming languages. So why did Microsoft feel compelled to create their own GotDotNet Workspaces that is clearly just a ripoff of SourceForge?
A few reasons are fairly clear: First, at many of their workspaces you don’t get in unless they know who you are. Ever been stopped at SourceForge and asked for a name and password to look at a project? What about download binaries or source? No? At GotDotNet you will, lots of projects are marked with a lock. Second, forget about all those messy licenses that Microsoft might not approve of, you don’t need to worry your little head about BSD vs. GPL vs. LGPL. You’ve got the one true workspace license that you have to agree to, or else you won’t be putting your project there. Lastly, well it’s kind of obvious, but it’s really all about control isn’t it. After all, if you aren’t under their thumb, that has to be a bad thing. So a SourceForge that they control is pretty much a requirement, isn’t it?
- It’s a really sad way for a lot of people to waste a whole lot of time rebuilding that which already exists. Wouldn’t the whole computing world be a lot better if there wasn’t a team of people, maybe a couple of teams of people building complete copies of .NET for other platforms? If those same people were working on giving us new libraries and new tools for an already existing language instead of pouring in the thousands of man hours it’s going to take to build a copy of the C# compiler or a .NET version of Ant and JUnit?
In the end, we’ll all just be left with another way to do the exact same thing only in a different language. Lord knows the world benefits now from being unable to share media between France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the US, and Japan because we can’t all speak the same language. I benefit every day from the fact that I can’t read a Japanese manga I might enjoy or understand a TV show from Europe. Once you are done building this tower, go build a few more right beside it using Perl, Python, and Ruby too. They’re all trailing behind in certain areas, we need to make sure the same set of stuff is reinvented and rewritten for all of them too.
I’m tired now and I’m sure I can probably come up with some more stuff to add to rant but it’s not really going to change anything anyway.