Why I’ll never buy another Red Gate Product

Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011 8:12 PM by CoreyRoth

I’ve been living under a rock and I didn’t hear the news that Red Gate was discontinuing the free version of .NET Reflector until the last week or so. I’ve used a Red Gate product or two in the past and enjoyed them. ANTS Performance Profiler has saved my butt a few times by identifying slow performing ASP.NET code. It was a real life saver. They make some decent products.  It’s too bad it has come to this.

I’m absolutely shocked that Red Gate is discontinuing the free version of reflector. However, I have to say I was equally shocked when I heard that they bought it to begin with. I never understood it from the business perspective. I’m glad Lutz got something for the hard work that he put into it. However, why would a company buy a free community tool thinking they were going to being able to capitalize on it?

.NET Reflector has always had an auto update feature. You can currently decline the update right now and still run it. However, the current version is time-bombed. Once June 1st comes around, the update becomes required and you have to update to the latest version. Once you have the latest version, your time is limited to the trial. After that, you have to pay up.  The same version you had for free now costs you $35 US.

Red Gate’s original approach seemed to be that they’ll keep the tool in the community for free and then develop it further with Visual Studio integration as a value-add in the Pro edition. The issue being that the value-add simply doesn’t add that much value, so of course they had issues getting people to buy it. The fact is the free edition of the product met your needs most of the time. Usually, you open it up, pick a class or two to examine and then you’re done. The Visual Studio integration and debugging features sounded good in theory, but personally I had mixed results with it and found that the decompiling process took quite some time. It just wasn’t worth messing with. I have heard some others report that they enjoy the feature though so maybe it’s worth it to some.

I understand that business is business. Red Gate invested money into buying the product and they need to recoup it. This deal should have never been made though. Whoever convinced the executives at Red Gate that they could profit off of this deal has probably been fired or will soon be when this whole endeavor further damages the reputation of the company  The community is not happy.. The product itself is quite strong but people are accustomed to not paying for it so they are not about to start. The value-add features in the Pro editions are just not worth paying for.

So what can Red Gate do? Write it off. Take it as a loss and terminate whoever brought the deal to the table. Apologize to the community for making such a huge mistake and hope it doesn’t affect their other product sales. Take a look at their forums, the citizens are revolting.  A promise was made to the community and now it has been broken. They justify the need to charge because they have a development team to pay. The product doesn’t need a whole team of developers. Keep in mind, the product was basically maintained by one person for years. Commit to doing some updates with a small development for the good of the community but give up on trying to monetize the product. Consider making it open source and let the community take over. Red Gate needs to make the right decision now, before it affects the sales of your other products.

What can you do? If it bugs you enough, stop using Red Gate products. Take a look at the up and coming ILSpy. Don’t bother posting in their forums. People have done that to death and it’s not going anywhere. I think the best bet is to e-mail them at this point. As an MVP, I could probably get a copy of Reflector Pro for free. However, I won’t do that as a matter of principal. I’ll do without or try some other tools out. I write this today, because I feel like I represent part of the community. This blog had 39k page views last month. Maybe my voice has a chance of being heard and I can help make a difference.


# re: Why I’ll never buy another Red Gate Product

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 3:01 PM by Nobody Real

I agree completely.  It's not that I don't think Reflector is a great product, and it's definitely worth the $35 they're asking for it.  The issue is one of integrity, and I feel that Red Gate has lied to us, duped us, and is now trying to extort us.

If they'd bought Reflector, and said up front they were going to charge for it, that would have been fine.  Instead, they committed to keeping it free (that was their word, commited.. i am not infering anything here).  How can we trust them to be comitted to anything else?

I would even be (mostly) happy if they just took the time bomb out of the last free version, and left it available for free download.  True, this will eventually go out of date when new versions of the languages are released, but at least they aren't extorting us to pay for something they committed

I'd rather upgrade to Resharper 6 which will have decompiling built-in, than pay Red Gates extortion attempts.

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