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I have heard a lot of outrage over Red Gate's decision to charge for Reflector.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of Red Gate. I have worked with them on several usability tests. They also sponsor Simple Talk where I publish articles. They are a good company.

I am also a BIG fan of Reflector. I have used it since Lutz originally released it. I have written my own add-ins. I have written code to host reflector and use its object model in my own code.

Reflector is a beautiful tool. The care that Lutz took to incorporate extensibility is amazing. I have never had difficulty convincing my fellow developers that it is a wonderful tool. Almost always, once anyone sees it in action, it becomes their favorite tool.

This wide spread adoption and usability has made it an icon and pivotal pillar in the DotNet community. Even folks with the attitude that if it did not come out of Redmond then it must not be any good, still love it.

It is ironic to hear everyone clamoring for it to be released as open source. Reflector was never open source, it was free, but you never were able to peruse the source code and contribute your own changes. You could not even use Reflector to view the source code. From the very beginning, it was never anyone's intention for just anyone to examine the source code and make their own contributions aside from the add-in model. Lutz chose to hand over the reins to Red Gate because he believed that they would be able to build on his original vision and keep the product viable and effective. He did not choose to make it open source, hoping that the community would be up to the challenge. The simplicity and elegance may well have been lost with the "design by committee" nature of open source.

Despite being a wonderful and beloved tool, Reflector cannot be an easy tool to maintain. Maybe because it is so wonderful and beloved, it is even more difficult to maintain.

At any rate, we have high expectations. Reflector must continue to be able to reasonably disassemble every language construct that the framework and core languages dream up. We want it to be fast, and we also want it to continue to be simple to use. No small order.

Red Gate tried to keep the core product free. Sadly there was not enough interest in the Pro version to subsidize the rest of the expenses. $35 is a reasonable cost, more than reasonable.

I have read the blog posts and forum posts complaining about the time associated with getting the expense approved. I have heard people complain about the cost being unreasonable if you are a developer from certain countries.

Let's do the math. How much of a productivity boost is Reflector? How many hours do you think it saves you in a typical project? The next question is a little easier if you are a contractor or a consultant, but what is your hourly rate? If you are not a contractor, you can probably figure out an hourly rate. How long does it take to get a return on your investment?

The value added proposition is not a difficult one to make.

I have read people clamoring that Red Gate sucks and is evil. They complain about broken promises and conflicts of interest. Relax! Red Gate is not evil. The world is not coming to an end. The sun will come up tomorrow.

I am sure that Red Gate will come up with options for volume licensing or site licensing for companies that want to get a licensed copy for their entire team. Don't panic, and I am sure that many great improvements are on the horizon. Switching the UI to WPF and including a tabbed interface opens up lots of possibilities.

Posted on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 1:29 PM Red Gate | Back to top

Comments on this post: On Reflector Pricing

# re: On Reflector Pricing
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Couldn't agree more - $35 for such a great tool is pittance, I'd be happy to pay twice that. Their communication explained their reasons, and they were all valid.
Left by Tony Bolton on Feb 02, 2011 4:05 PM

# re: On Reflector Pricing
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It is certainly okay that they chose to charge for a new, enhanced version. However, that the current free version is timebombed and will cease to work just about one month after the relese of V7 is a really bad move. Most of the anger out there is related to not being able to continue using V6 (or even V5) as-is after the release of V7.

I personally don't know any other free product which was commercialized and the old version was timebombed one month after the commercial release... not speaking of their great words when they initially took Reflector over.

Usually, when you get something for free without an explicit expiration date (there is none in the license to which one agrees when using the free version), you can keep it as long as you got it. They can remove it from their web site, not provide any support for it anymore, heck even advertize the new version in a free V6 release. But taking the free version off the market in this fashion is hardly acceptable.
Left by Anonymous on Feb 02, 2011 4:44 PM

# re: On Reflector Pricing
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What you're missing is this: Who the hell is asking them to "maintain" it?

What happened is they made a deal to buy Reflector thinking they could get people to step up from free to a fancier expensive version. Turns out (as any developer could've told them), nobody needed a fancier expensive version. Now they've sunk a lot of money they'll never get out again. Rather than face that, they're reneging on their promise to keep the free version free.

Go ahead, use the Google wayback machine and check out August 2008 when the deal was announced. "We will continue to provide a free version..." You can find it on numerous blogs; you can even find postings from Red Gate reps insisting the free version will remain.

Ah, but the $35 version is a "perpetual license". Really? Or just until they decide they've added so many nifty features that you'll just have to pay for it again? Who will be naive enough to trust Red Gate on this, when they're already proven themselves liars?
Left by Kyralessa on Feb 02, 2011 5:51 PM

# re: On Reflector Pricing
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@Tony Bolton: If you're happy to pay twice that, then buy me a license :-P

Kyralessa put it very well. Basically Red Gate's reputation is lost and I'm sure the community will remember for years that Red Gate will do whatever it wants to despite all the great claims like a promise of keeping Reflector free.
Left by tc on May 11, 2011 10:41 AM

# re: On Reflector Pricing
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As mentioned before, it's the time bomb thing that makes them assholes -- it's analogousness to hostage taking.

Some of us still haven't forgotten. For instance, I was recently asked by one of my developers what I would budget for them for some DB tools. I told them I didn't care about the cost as long as it wasn't a Red Gate product.
Left by Da Pahult on May 31, 2012 6:00 PM

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