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Silverlight – Does This "Change the Web"?

By - May 03, 2007

Silverlight

At Mix earlier this week, Microsoft introduced Silverlight, a new approach to developing web applications. As I understand it, this allows developers the ability to code in native, PC languages like C sharp, bypassing the limitations of javascript and HTML. Scoble has interviews with folks claiming this will “change the web.” Will it? I honestly want to know your opinion…..


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20 thoughts on “Silverlight – Does This "Change the Web"?

  1. Julian Birch says:

    Well, Silverlight is just the new name for WPF/E, which is fundamentally an attempt to take on Flash. Best case scenario for Microsoft is that it supplants Flash. I haven’t heard anyone explain exactly how it would be better than Flash for applications where currently people choose not to use Flash.

  2. Justin Watt says:

    John, here’s some recommended reading: Silly season and Different Drummer.

    In short, anything that promises to “bypass the limitations of javascript and HTML” (whatever that means—as if web is somehow hobbled) should probably be viewed skeptically. I have my money on HTML5. Here’s a good synopsis: HTML5, XHTML2, and the Future of the Web.

  3. Don MacAskill says:

    Yes, I think it will, but not necessarily for the reasons MS is telling you. :)

    The very best part about Silverlight is that we now have competition. Adobe has urgency to improve Flash at a more rapid pace now. And MS has urgency to try to catch up.

    It doesn’t really matter who “wins” or even if there is a “winner”. Every consumer wins, and the web will get better.

  4. RAD says:

    I gave my 2 cents worth in the following post. I think the video player is important because it will support more video formats than the Flash player does. The free streaming MS is offering should help get the ball rolling. An alternative to Flash (e.g. for animations) is good from a competition point of view but I don’t think it is earth shattering. The byte-code VM is cool but belongs in the browser rather than a plugin.

  5. matt mcknight says:

    I guess the question from a search perspective is- if it’s not generating HTML, how is it going to be crawled by Google? Is there an opportunity out there to create something that can crawl Flash content?

  6. I don’t see any evidence that any alternative format will be useful for anything other than within-the-page content, for one thing, and beyond that would note that a lot of money has been wasted underestimating the power of simple old HTML during the past 10 or 12 years. I haven’t seen any indication that this represents a fundamental break with any of the other alternative presentation methods (i.e., Flash), and although Flash has found a legitimate and useful role, the best Flash implementations out there rely on the Flash content existing within good old searchable HTML.

  7. mahesh hariharan says:

    SilverLight provides a much richer programming model than javascript and Adobe flash. It is critical because a lot of developers that were doing rich desktop applications can transition to doing the same with Silverlight rather than hack Flash or Javascript. As far as the Runtime being part of the plugin, it is only time before it becomes part of IE :). Obviously it will take time before it becomes ubiquitious as Flash – 2 yrs maybe..

  8. Robert Scoble says:

    Justin: OK, explain to me how you’d do a site like Kyte dot TV which I find very cool without using Flash or Silverlight or just by using “plain old HTML.”

    That’s why this battle is so interesting. I want more sites like Kyte, not fewer.

  9. Todd Cullen says:

    @mahesh If you think SilverLight provides a richer programming environment than Flash, you obviously haven’t done your research. Flex (MXML and AS3) is a superb platform to build RIA’s. It allows for strongly-typed Object Oriented Programming, a robust event system, and AMF3 (super fast/lighweight data format). Unless you’re already using .NET, I don’t see the advantage to using SilverLight over Flash for the average app.

    @Matt McKnight- in the case of Silverlight, applications are text files (XAML) just like HTML so Google/Yahoo could crawl them. A key difference between Silverlight and Flash.

  10. Scott McAndrew says:

    Change the Web? Maybe the better way to look at it would be to Influence the Web. Competition breeds innovation, and with Flash being the only player in the delivery of vector based media and having a strong presence in video delivery, I’m happy to see something new. If they continue to take interactive and the user experience seriously, and are dedicated to evolving this plug-in, I think it is a good thing.

    I was at the MIX conference, and the Silverlight plug-in wasn’t something that I thought was going to be all that inspirational (I was curious about other announcements), but, even with all the limitations that the plug-in curently has, they had some excellent examples to share. Of specific note was the quality of streaming of video in the FOX demo as well as the Silverlight-based online video editing example that was in the keynote.

  11. epictum says:

    Silverlight looked somewhat promising at first glance — Microsoft’s online tour was limited to 2 or 3 working samples a few weeks ago of which none were overly impressive (its best showcase redirected visitors to a different Web site… perfect.)– but I wholeheartedly agree with Boyle, Cullen and McAndrew. To move from a solid array of Adobe proggies to a newby Microsoft competitor seems like a logistical nightmare without much incentive. Moreover, it will most likely undergo several releases, based on WebDev feedback, so the mass migration from Flash/JS to Silverlight — if there will ever be one — will probably take another year. Just look at how long it took the majority of users to adopt XP (and my Update Manager still manages to ping me once in a while… ugh)! And now, take into consideration Zune (innovative but slow performance) and Vista (fancy/sleek but slow, as well)… lots of hype, no big delivery. Anyway, at least hard-core programmers have something to mull over for the mean time, ha.

  12. Justin Watt says:

    Robert, hmm defensive? I simply referred John to two posts by two people whose writings and ethos I respect and frequently learn from.

    I have nothing against Flash or Silverlight per se, I just personally value the open architecture of the web over the closed architecture of any proprietary plugin. Perhaps instead of “I have my money on HTML5″ I could have been more clear by in saying: “I find HTML5 more interesting and satisfying, in the long run.”

    Btw, I’m leaving this comment from Firefox, running on Ubuntu.

  13. Xofis says:

    I’m leaving this comment from New Jersey, running on a tuna sandwich. That’s about as relevant as Justin’s comment above.

  14. Ted Nicks says:

    Hmm, change the web? Since its very first days, all try to change the web but what they really did so far?
    Hundreds of rendering methods, image and streming formats, frameworks, protocols, server and client languages, even more future plans and big promises.
    If this is the web they dream then “No thanks”.

  15. John says:

    I don’t think it will “change” anything. The competition in this space is good, but in the end the technology specifications that win (and have won) on the web are those that are open and widely available.

    That said, I’m still impressed they have a mac version of the client plugin.

  16. Cyanbane says:

    .net framework (to a point), delivered to anyone on the net regardless of OS/Browser in (what seems to be) a centralized programmer controlled delivery point (for updates).

    Good stuff.

    Zawodny is right, it will be golden for intranet apps and internal deployments and will slowly (maybe surely?) get adoption on the net. I haven’t got into it heavily yet, but it almost seems very similar in my mind to the MMO gaming market in that a centralized server membership allows better control of piracy/licensing (you got to have an account to play) In that if these apps are “hosted” then it might allow for better regulation of licensing, etc (which is a boon to the third party developers). Still researching it though. From what I have read, as a developer it looks to me more than a ripple, it looks like a fat kid just jumped into the pool.

  17. Justin Watt says:

    Xofis, it’s relevant in the context of my ability to view any of this “web-rebooting” Silverlight content, at least in the near term and probably in the long term.

  18. Mark says:

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  19. serblood says:

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