Six Years Later: Is the “scourge of .net” any better?

One of my favorite articles from 2013 is called “Living without the scourge of .NET.” In it, I detail the extraordinary nightmare of keeping the various incompatible versions of Microsoft’s .NET framework from killing each other and killing your PC in the process. Microsoft .NET Framework was one of the four ancient technologies that were still a big problem five years ago. Originally designed to make it easier for multiple apps to work together, these technologies just made things harder for everyone. Different versions weren’t compatible with each other, and often times it was hard to determine where the problem was. Let’s take a look at these four ancient problems and see if they’ve been solved.

.NET

First of all, the problem of .NET went away mostly because programmers stopped using it. But, for those few who actually did, the smartest thing that Microsoft could do was create one version of .NET which has within it several other versions. With .NET 3.5, now part of every Windows 10 installation, older versions of the software now exist as part of the whole package. This makes updates easier and generally makes everything play together better.

Verdict: Solved

Visual C++ Redistributable

Visual C++ is the language that underpins some of the largest parts of Windows and its components. It literally makes Windows possible. However, there have been several different versions over the last 15 years that are still kicking around.

A quick look at the apps on my 4-month-old computer revealed this:

Sorry for the long list but apparently every single one of these apps is required for the proper operation of my computer and the way I use it. Each version of the software needs an x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) version, making for a blistering array of things that I wish I could do without. It’s also a small fortune on Microsoft’s end to keep all these things secure.

The good news is that VC++ doesn’t break often and when it does it really only affects the apps that use its particular version. All of the versions together take up very little space so for the most part you don’t see a lot of issues. Still it’s a big mess and I’d call this one anything but solved.

Verdict: Harmless but far from fixed.

Java

Back in the early days of the internet, Java was a huge part. It still is, as JavaScripts run a lot of the more fun parts of the internet. But, Java became a monster as it struggled in the early 2010s to deal with wave after wave of vulnerabilities. It was designed to make your computer easier to access, not more secure.

Today it’s completely possible to live without Java and most people do. Occasionally you’ll run into a program that needs it and you’ll have to install it. The most common version you’ll need is the Java Runtime Environment, which has always been the most secure version anyway. Installing it is only a minor security risk, but if you really want to be safe then find other options for antique programs that need it. Today, HTML5 can do everything Java can do, and more securely.

Verdict: Mostly gone, but almost completely forgotten.

Flash

In the 2000s, Flash was the internet. The HTML of the day was boring and stodgy. Flash added color and motion. It also added massive security risks and all sorts of confusion and complexity.

Flash famously started on the road to obsolescence in 2010 when Steve Jobs announced that the iPad wouldn’t run it. It was messy, said Mr. Jobs, and HTML5 was better. He was right on this one and it took a lot of time for other developers to see that.

Flash basically doesn’t run on mobile devices. It’s off by default in major browsers and updates to it are handled by the manufacturer. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a flash update warning — sometimes they used to come twice a week. Flash is essentially dead and if you run into a site that still uses it, you’ll actually just see a bunch of grey boxes. That’s just fine with me.

Verdict: Flash who? Jobs was right.

All in all we’re better off

Microsoft Windows may not rule the world like it used to. Way more than half of all internet access takes place on mobile devices, which have never run any of these technologies. In the face of competition, though, Microsoft got smart. Windows 10 is a very secure, very safe operating system. Eliminating these older technologies is a big part of what made that possible.