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RedGate Will No Longer Offer .NET Reflector for Free

by Abel Avram on Feb 04, 2011 |

RedGate has announced that .NET Reflector is going to become a commercial product starting with version 7 which is to be made available in the first part of March, 2011, having a price tag of $35. Reflector Pro which allows developers to debug through disassembled code is currently offered for $95.

.NET Reflector was created and initially developed by Lutz Roeder, a Microsoft developer working on Expression, and he sold it to RedGate in 2008, mentioning that the product will remain free:

Red Gate will continue to provide the free community version and is looking for your feedback and ideas for future versions.

Simon Galbraith, co-founder of RedGate, commented on the future of .NET Reflector, now that it will be no longer free, saying:

Owning Reflector doesn’t make commercial sense. Further development of Reflector doesn’t make commercial sense. And Reflector is a tool that has to stay current, it has to work in all sorts of new ways, with new mobile devices, with new versions of the .NET platform. …

We didn’t promise that [that it would stay free], but it was very much our intention. To anyone out there who is angry or disappointed with our decision to charge for Reflector, I would like to say now that we are really sorry about that, and we are really regretful that we made such as statement that we would never try to charge for that. In hindsight we wish we hadn’t done that.

Galbraith continued by saying that they initially hoped people interested in Reflector would be interested in buying other tools RedGate makes, but that has not been the case. The other idea was that some developers using Reflector will be enticed to buy Reflector Pro, but that did not happen either, according to Galbraith.

This change has upset many developers who commented on the change. Some are annoyed by the fact that Reflector has an update mechanism making the product impossible to use after an expiration date, so they will either buy v.7 or stop using it altogether. The current version, v.6, will expire on May 31st, 2011. Others are asking RedGate to open source the code, or wondering if there is a way to take Roeder’s code and build an open source version on it. But Reflector was never an open source program, so that is unlikely to happen unless RedGate is no longer interested in it, and open sources it.

Jason Haley, an important contributor to Reflector by writing several add-ins, said that he investigated the possibility to write a disassembler 6 years ago when he discovered that Reflector had an expiration date:

Yesterday I was watching Twitter for ‘Reflector’ to see what people were saying … and I realized that a lot of people are now forced to the realization that I came to about 6 years ago on a commuter train when I tried to open Reflector and it wouldn’t work without updating:  What the hell? … and what would happen if I can’t use Reflector anymore?

That one moment is what got me interested in disassembling and decompiling.

After spending some time on this, his conclusion was “that it really wasn’t worth my time,” and he was better writing add-ins, which he did. He concluded that it is much easier to just pay $35 for the tool than writing your own:

What do I think now that Reflector isn’t maintained by Lutz and isn’t going to be free?  Same conclusion: it isn’t worth my time to write a decompiler/disassembler when Reflector is available for $35.  Besides – if I wrote my own – I’d want to sell it for money too.

Galbraith added in his interview that their intention is to maintain the $35 price in the future, but they do not promise anything. It all depends on how many developers will buy Reflector.

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