Today it was announced that Red Gate Software would begin charging for .NET Reflector with the version 7 release. The announcement triggered a flurry of Twitter activity from several developers who have enjoyed use of Reflector for many years. Reflector was developed and maintained by Lutz Roeder until 2008 when he transferred ownership to Red Gate. From the beginning Reflector was provided as a free tool to the development community. When Red Gate assumed ownership without making any commitment (or obligation) to keeping Reflector free, they continued to do so until the proposed May 2011 release of version 7.
Why all the uproar?
In my opinion, this is a perfect example of people feeling like they deserve to have something when they have done nothing to deserve it. Lutz could have easily charged for Reflector when he was working on the tool, but decided not too. I along with many other people would have been willing to pay a small price to leverage Reflector. It was a huge help for me when I started working on WPF and there were no books on the market. It was his code and his perogative to offer Reflector for free. Now the code belongs to Red Gate and in order to really commit their developers they are going to ask for $35 for a perpetual individual license. I guess they could ask their people to work for free, but I doubt they would. Would you?
Do I like the decision? NO, but I understand that companies can’t do everything for free. Think about it like this, go to your local grocery store and most of them will have free cookies for kids at the bakery. Let’s say you take your kid to the store everyday for a free cookie for 6 or 7 years until the store discovers they need to pay the baker. So they ask you to pay $1 for a membership card for your little cookie monster to get cookies. Now ask yourself, do you have a right to the cookie? Will you go on Twitter and say the grocery store is the scourge of the earth? I certainly hope not. I have used Red Gate tools for years and have been pleased. While I am not happy about the decision, I don’t fault them and they haven’t violated any sacred trust.