In this forum post, user AvonWyss provides several quotes from Red Gate, including one from 2008 when they took over Reflector:
Red Gate will continue to offer the tool for free to the community.
That one's even block-quoted right on the article. Of course, the FAQ on the policy change somewhat spins this:
We didn't promise to keep .NET Reflector free, but that was our stated intention at the time.
Is there a difference? Just because the word "promise" didn't show up in the original statement, is that any less a promise?
Based on this change, it appears that people in the community fall into one of two basic camps:
- Those who feel betrayed by the change and believe Reflector should stay free.
- Those who think it's a fine change because Red Gate should be paid for their work on Reflector.
I, personally, fall into the first camp - I feel betrayed by Red Gate not keeping up their proverbial end of the bargain. I fully understand the desire to be paid for maintaining professional grade tools, but there are also many examples of these tools that survive in an open source (or other similar) model that are equally professional grade and remain free. Besides, wasn't the point of "Reflector Pro" to get some revenue on top of the base Reflector product?
One would think they could adopt a model extending that notion of "Reflector Pro" - maybe sell add-ins or whatever at a premium while keeping the base product ("Express?") free. DevExpress does this with their CodeRush product; Microsoft does this with Visual Studio; yet somehow there's this amazingly large cost involved in maintaining Reflector, a tool that one guy carried for years in his spare time?
I won't lie and say I didn't see this coming. Back when Red Gate first assumed control of Reflector there was stink about wondering how long they'd go before they started charging. Of course, every step of the way, Red Gate reassured us that the tool would remain free and the premium extensions would be what they charge for. Hence my feeling of betrayal.
Betrayed or not, in agreement or not, this whole discussion leads me to the question:
Does providing feedback to Red Gate, positive or negative, about this change actually matter?
Is it going to change anything? Are they going to suddenly decide to not charge? They had to know what a stir this would cause. They had to know how many customers they'd be alienating, and they made the choice to do it anyway. Is this just another write-in campaign to save Firefly from being canceled?
I'd argue it's not going to make a lick of difference. Red Gate will let the community grouse about it, and they'll be happy to lose customers directly (through individuals getting irritated and leaving) or indirectly (through developers like me evaluating every product except Red Gate's when making purchase recommendations). They've already weighed that and decided it was worth the risk.
Of course, what's the competitor to Reflector? They have us over a barrel, so to speak, and they know it. I'd wager that made the decision a bit easier.
Even so, I can't help but hope that maybe, just maybe, the community voice will be heard.