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A lot of reactions started on Twitter this morning following the publication of the article titled “The Future of Silverlight” on the Silverlight Team Blog. One that caught my attention was written by Hadi Hariri:

original-tweet

After a few messages I realized that he was talking about Silverlight.

The problems Silverlight addresses

The official announcement says between the lines:

… Silverlight enables applications that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want. We group these into three broad categories: premium media experiences, consumer apps and games, and business/enterprise apps.

Even in their own statement, they acknowledge that Silverlight is not for building web apps, but is to address very specific features that you don’t have in HTML/CSS/JS.

Most of the features of Silverlight are already included in HTML

But if you take a closer look to the features they list, and you compare them with what HTML (where with HTML I mean the sum of HTML, JavaScript and CSS) can do, you realize that, with the exception the adaptive streaming and other advanced video features, everything can be implemented in HTML: there is HW-accelerated canvas in HTML5 to fulfill the need of “power” of web games, there are already dozens of JavaScript UI control libraries, like jQuery UI to helps you build rich and “desktop-looking” web applications with very little effort, there is local storage and even a local database to store information locally in the browser, there are web workers to keep the application responsive during heavy computations, and much more will come with HTML5.

Some might argue that, even then, Silverlight has a more mature IDE and most developers don’t have a clue about programming in JavaScript and writing HTML+CSS. This only partially true: you reuse your C# skills and your knowledge of the CLR, but you need to learn all the pattern and best practices specific to this new paradigm, like MVVM, you have to deal with the “all is async” problem, and you probably don’t want to just drag and drop SL controls onto the developer surface, so even the IDE helps just a little here. And looking at it the other side of the coin, I’m pretty sure JavaScript oriented IDE and even more commercial control vendors will start making “d&d-able” controls to make JavaScript development as easy as desktop development.

Silverlight is more than the browser

The article finishes with that emphasis: “Silverlight is much more than a browser technology”. Sure it allows you to build “out of the browser” apps, even desktop apps, and now Windows Phone 7 apps. I think this is a great advantage for developers that build desktop apps, but I just don’t see Silverlight as a web application technology.

What is Silverlight really for?

If you asked me where I would use Silverlight I’d answer:

  • To build desktop applications
  • To build Windows Phone 7 native applications
  • And to build islands of interactivity of web applications, where the current “simpler and more standard” technologies are not enough, like in media applications.

Andrew Tokeley wrote a very nice post that goes into the details of when you need to use Silverlight instead of HTML/JS/CSS.

I think this is also how Microsoft should market it: a technology that allows you to create rich “web-looking” applications on the desktop, complex video components for the web , and to reuse the same skills to build native mobile applications for Windows Phone 7. But they should stop comparing Silverlight to HTML5, they are complementary technologies, not competing technologies.

What are your opinions on this topic? Please share them on the comments.

posted on Thursday, September 2, 2010 2:58 PM

Comments on this entry:

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 3:14 PM

Thank you for blasting my picture on your blog page :).

My main point during our conversation was that a lot of what is outlined in that blog can actually be performed. I'm a noob on video so I can't comment about the streaming, but building business applications, end-user apps, etc. and having the rich experience has and is available today with the likes of jQuery and other libraries. The simplicity and leveraging existing technology (i.e. C#) is a false premise because the major investment in learning there is in regard to apply correct patterns, practices and learning the ins-and-outs of XAML. How much less effort is that really compared to something like CSS, HTML and jQuery?

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Simone at 9/2/2010 3:29 PM

You're welcome... this is something I always wanted to write anyway, and the post and the conversation with you gave me right inspiration and the right moment to finallt write it.
Again, I agree with you: learning SL from scratch, with all his ins and outs, the patterns and the new paradigm of interactions are comparable if not higher than learning to use JavaScript, but probably people perceive it differently because they think learning a new set of languages (JS, HTML, CSS) is more complex than learning a new mindset.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Kristof Houwen at 9/2/2010 3:33 PM

When I was looking at Silverlight for a makeover of a clients back-end , there was always a question mark in the back of my head. Why was I looking at Silverlight? Can't I do it with html and javascript?
After reading your post, it's all become clear, Silverlight is not the silver bullet for webapps, gonna stay with html/js for now.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Marko at 9/2/2010 3:35 PM

excellent article and comments, please continue :)

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by hh at 9/2/2010 3:42 PM

As a business app developer, I can't imagine my self and my team in building app in JS/HTML/CSS/ASP.NET MVC, mostly because JS.
That's why we choose SL. When I speak with developers from other companies that also are building biz apps, mostly desktop based, they realize that Web is the next platform for running them, and SL is by far the best option they have.
Shouldn't we compare difficulties of writing business apps in SL (c#,...) and JS (HTML, AJAX)?
Media, HW acc. and other fancy keywords are just for headlines of tech portals IMHO.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Marko at 9/2/2010 3:43 PM

silverligth share the same problem as any of .net technology...it is not reusable...if you put your time and energy, to learn some .net technology, for example asp.net, you can hardly reuse when learning some other web technology, for example php...ok, in some percentage you can, but not like if you are starting with php for example or ruby...and the same problem is with silverlight, you can hardly reuse skill that you learn doing silverlight, so if it gets obsolete, you are in trouble...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Simone at 9/2/2010 3:47 PM

@Kristof: yes, Silverlight is not the silverbullet. Most of the things it does can be done *now* with HTML, and almost everything will be done in HTML5.
But also the opposite statement is not true either: there is something that cannot be done with just HTML+JS, like an advanced video player. Just evaluate carefully, and go for the easiest/most open thing that could work.
I think Microsoft started with the idea of making the one-size-fits-all technology (web, desktop, mobile all with the same tech) but is slowly realizing that the web will always need a specific approach.

@Marko: Thank you, will do it :)

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 3:52 PM

Microsoft made the same mistake when they went with WebForms. They missed the most important issue: Web != Desktop. Leverage of existing knowledge took us to ViewState nightmares and Postback.

The key thing we constantly forget in all these approaches is that Web development will always be different, not only because of what tools we use to build, but the simple fact that Desktop and Device is ONE MACHINE per user. Web is not.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 4:05 PM

@HH (ironic, I'm HH too)

Why do you feel that writing business apps using HTML/CSS/XYZ is more complicated?

Looking at it from a UI perspective, we can only compare XAML to HTML/CSS. We compare Silverlight controls offerred by 3rd party companies to Client-side controls offered by libraries (and companies) such as jQuery and others. How can

#calendar.datePicker();

be more complicated than having to bind and set different properties?

Years ago, JavaScript knowledge was limited to copy/paste of snippets found on the web and tweaking to fit your needs. You kept as far away as that joke language that you could. jQuery and other libraries have radically changed that. We can't continue to ignore the power that JavaScript as a language truly has or the facility and versatility that libraries such as these offer us. We can't continue to ignore what's going on around us and make judgement calls on which technology to use based on the conceptions we had years back. Things have changed.

That's as far as UI is concerned.

In regard to actually writing the famous LOB application, how is that different whether we use Silverlight or HTML? At the end of the day, most of this processing is done in the back-end using the same ORM, the same services and the same technology.


On the other hand, if writing LOB applications means drag-n-drop and other RAD approaches that have proven numerous times their lack of maintainability and testability, then I agree with you, Silverlight is probably an easier approach.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by gpk at 9/2/2010 4:27 PM

I share HH's pov here "Shouldn't we compare difficulties of writing business apps in SL (c#,...) and JS (HTML, AJAX)?"

A deeper comparison of writing a business app in SL vs HTML/CSS/JS(AJAX/UI lib/framework of your choice) is exactly what's needed imho.
In this comparison I would consider the "web app framework for a desktop app dev" factor.

I really think you're selling SL short, and I'm saying this when my focus has mainly been on the web the last 10+ years using "standards".
gpk

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by LorenzoC at 9/2/2010 4:40 PM

I guess Silverlight goal is to fill the same market niche as Flash and related technologies. When MS sees a niche they try to fill it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by hh at 9/2/2010 4:48 PM

@haidi
sure, $("#name").datepicker() is really easy, jQuery is like blessing (if that the right word:), but for medium to large scale dev with dynamic, weak typed language it's just not that easy. From tooling , debugging and frameworks availability perspective. Second language knowledge for server side interaction is then also required. But I don't see anything wrong in usage of all that runtimes, SL, JS, Flex/Flash, JavaFx. Some of them will be limited to specialized use and enviroment.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 4:56 PM

@HH
<
Personally I'm not one that worries about static vs dynamic type languages. Most of the web is made up of dynamic languages. However, I think you're confirming what I was saying in my comment: you're basing these on misconceptions.

Even with jQuery you have Intellisense in Visual Studio. You can also debug JavaScript and with tools like ReSharper (disclaimer: I work for JetBrains), that would even be less of an issue.

As for learning a second language, you already have. It's called XAML. I'm not sold on the cliché of using one language everywhere (mind you, JavaScript starts to come close...). It's about using what's best in each situation.

Regarding issues with medium to large scale dev, please be more specific. I don't see how it changes anything.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Andrea Boschin at 9/2/2010 5:33 PM

No way. To me there is not any way to make a comparison between Javascript and C#. You can have the so far better tooling support for Javascript, but it is always an interpreted language with no strong typing and this is a big issue for productive uses. And spite of the "L" in the acronym I do not consider XAML a language, but only and effective serialization that let tools to be reliable (as they cannot do with HTML). I love writing XAML directly but it is not a requirement for developer to know it.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Andrea Boschin at 9/2/2010 5:35 PM

and... this doesn't mean I do not like jQuery and Javascript. I'm only saying they cannot be the right tool for every application...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Simone at 9/2/2010 5:40 PM

@Andrea: "I'm only saying they cannot be the right tool for every application..."
so Silverlight is not... it's not for web development, it as, I said, for things that cannot be done with JavaScript.
I'd go for the easiest/most open thing that could work, and in most scenarios, Silverlight is not.

And strongly typing is overrated: what about all the server languages that are dynamic, like Ruby, Pyton, even C# is becoming dynamic.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Dave Ward at 9/2/2010 5:46 PM

What frustrates me about the over-marketing of Silverlight is watching developers chase after yet another promise that they wouldn't have to learn JavaScript to be web developers. That misguidance may really come back to haunt a lot of devs as server-side JavaScript becomes more popular. People are doing some amazing things with node.js, using the same language on both client and server.

I believe that developing a forms-over-data LoB app in Silverlight is as much a mistake today as it was to use ActiveX or Java applets a decade ago.

I wrote a bit about this trend last year: encosia.com/.../is-silverlight-the-new-webforms/

Re: static vs. dynamic, the productivity and power a dynamic language brings to front-end work is unbeatable. I do prefer C# for the back-end business logic and data access, but static languages bring a lot of unnecessary friction to front-end work. Just think about all of the messy casting around most uses of FindControl, for example. So often, we're basically coercing C#/VB to approximate the dynamic approach, losing the benefits of a static language and forgoing the true power of a dynamic language.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Andrea Boschin at 9/2/2010 5:51 PM

@Simone I know your thinking about the matter and you know I agree it does not make sense to develop websites with SL. I'm referring to a sentence in the first comment saying: "I'm a noob on video so I can't comment about the streaming, but building business applications, end-user apps, etc. and having the rich experience has and is available today with the likes of jQuery and other libraries"... this make less sense to me...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Andrea Boschin at 9/2/2010 5:54 PM

> And strongly typing is overrated: what about all the server languages that are dynamic, like Ruby, Pyton, even C# is becoming dynamic.

unfortunately this is not really a good thing...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Gian MAria at 9/2/2010 6:06 PM

I believe that Silverlight is not targeted to build a whole site. I'm strongly convinced that DHTML+jQuery or similar javascript technology is still the best choiche to create a web site, for many reason.

I'll use silverlight to
Develop on decvice (WP7)
Develop Web application that can be used Out of Browser.
Streaming and video is another good reason to use SL.<br />

For comparison between HTML5 and SL... well we will need first of all an HTML5 standard, and if each browser will implement their version of this standard, probably SL will be the choice, at least I can trust MSFT for making SL plugin that will look like the same on every browser.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 6:49 PM

@Andrea,

Sorry since you didn't mention my name, I didn't realize that phrase was referring to something I said. Can you explain what doesn't make sense to you?

When talking about building LOB apps (which is a term by the way that I'm becoming allergic too) I'm referring to the UI section of it.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by hh at 9/2/2010 9:52 PM

friction in developing standard LOB app in JS is much higher with JS, but on the other side, its much lower for web apps, like facebook, stackoverflow or similar. They solve different problems, so any comparasion can be unfair. Maybe we can blaim MS marketing department again? Speaking on webforms. it brought lot of vb devs to .net but also produced many problems with unnecesary abstractions, thing that i, for now, dont see in SL programming model. MVVM works just fine.
And, debugging of js and intellisense is lightyears behind c#. On the other hand, i'm not happy that i feel cripled without resharper, it doesnt happen to ruby and php devs!

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/2/2010 10:19 PM

@HH

I'm concerned about how much emphasis you're putting on having a debugger. Unit Tests replace that.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Karel Vandenhove at 9/2/2010 11:00 PM

@Hadi,
Unit Tests certainly do not replace a debugger.
Even with modern ide's debugging jQuery and the likes is a pain compared by debugging SL.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Ashraf at 9/2/2010 11:04 PM

I was debating between Silverlight Vs Web (MVC, JQuery, HTML and CSS) for creating a large business application (ERP), and now I am very happy with my decision to go with web technologies. In my experience it’s not hard to write large business application in web if you architecture it properly. And if I ever need to write a desktop I would choose WPF.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by HydroMan at 9/2/2010 11:07 PM

Interesting to see comments from people who haven't even touched Silverlight or seen its capabilities with a 100 foot pole yet they call it a "mistake", "over marketing", etc etc... Well for those Silverlight is not their platform, nor will be and Silverlight can do without 'em while the one who realize its capabilities will have a lot of fun working with it...

If by web they mean browsers, well that will be a moot point in some future date.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Simone at 9/3/2010 12:33 AM

@HydroMan: why do you say commenter didn't use Silvelight?
No doubt working with Silverlight can be fun, but everything has its place in the world. And Silverlight's one is in Windows Phone, desktop apps and media applications, nothing more

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/3/2010 7:11 AM

@Hydroman,

What's even more interesting is how you can jump to that conclusion.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Braulio at 9/3/2010 8:58 AM

Some interesting reading (from somebody that has worked hard on both sides html/js and SL):


blog.galasoft.ch/...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Michael Sync at 9/3/2010 9:16 AM

Of course, Silverlight is not the replacement of web... And HTML 5 will NOT make Silverlight obsolete at least for next 5 or more years..

>>To build desktop applications
>>To build Windows Phone 7 native applications
>>And to build islands of interactivity of web applications,

I agreed with those 3 facts..

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by LBiege at 9/3/2010 11:01 AM

Funny to see so much HTML5 hype. Here's one simple observation to bust the hype once for all: If H5 can do everything SilverLight does then why doesn't Google as the #1 H5/JS pumper implement their Android platform in H5/JS? We know MSFT is using SilverLight as the backbone for Windows Mobile 7 so why doesn't Google build theirs on top of this "can do everything SilverLight does"

Google has all the incentives to implement a robust Mobile platform in H5/JS, ain't they? It itself is promoting Web as a platfrom. It definitely wants to know Windows desktop out cold. And there's a vast supply of Web/JS programmers ready to pick it up should they provide them one. And yet they are not doing it.

Let's be honest. This "can match everything SilverLight does" thing is wishful thinking at best. If it's even remotely true then not only Android would be based on H5/JS but also Goolge Docs impletemented in HTML/JS would have killed MSFT Office by now. Google would be running a propaganda 24/7 bragging about it.

There are many glaring factors against H5/JS as a robust platform alternative:

#1 has to be Javascript. Dynamics languages simply cannot be the right languages for large scale apps. You can toy with it in those quick & dirty apps but you will get killed in a hundreds-of-thousands-line business APP as the dynamic languages hide a lot of errors til runtime that should have been detected at development stages. That's why you need strong-type principles.

The overall benefit of supporting bettter tooling, debugging, refactoring, maintaining and so on that come inherently from strong-typed language blows that little development time gain a dynamic language provides out of water. Software development is a whole package, if you save some time at development stage only to create a bunch headache down the road at the later stages, you are just a quick hassler rather than a quality developer. And you wind up saving nothing at the end.

Sure C# has dynamic features now but they are applied only when making sense, mind you. I notice someone complaining about "FindControl". Well, if you have a lots of that you probably are not following some basic strong-typed principles. If's really a problem of your own making, quite frankly.

#2 There's this "standard committee" approach to HTML. An SC is as efficient as a big fat government. You know it. I know it. Look at what's going with the HTML5: Just to get a new draft you have to a long time, and meanwhile SilverLight has blown past from 1.0 to 4.0 already. With so much conflict of interests and agendas behind, that thing will always be drag. You should know better than trusting this SC thing.

#3 HTML doesn't have an APP framework gene in it. Right-click on any web page and then view source. You tell me it's not completely a mess with tags and script code all jammed in one page. You know from a junior college course it's a bad idea to mix code and data together, and that's what HTML/JS are doing. This thing from getgo was just thrown out as a quick-&-dirty markup for the back & forward browser buttons. Later on they dropped in JS to make it a little more interactive, which was just patch work.

Should they start it all over while ignoring the legacy HTML support, they'd come up with sth closer to SilverLight rather the current H5/JS. To the complete contrary that MSFT is always against innovation, it's these "open web" guys hanging onto the inadequate HTML/JS legacy that are against the innovation like SilverLight. You guys better figure this out.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hadi Hariri at 9/3/2010 11:13 AM

Hopefully my last comment on this topic.
<
Unfortunately when one tweet is shown without the rest of the conversation, it's hard to put things into context. I am not over-hyped about HTML 5. My point during the conversation (if someone cares to look it up in Twitter) was that much of the selling points of Silverlight, have not been there for some time (if at all to say they originally were). This is not about becoming hyped on the next shiny thing that is HTML.

If those selling points are now being directed at Desktop (WPF/E becoming Silverlight and WPF becoming Silverlight) and Windows Phone, then great. Yes there is a market there. Yes there's a market in WP7. My point was around web technologies.

The precise reason I didn't write a blog post on this is because nearly everything these days is converted into a purse fight.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Paul Cowan at 9/3/2010 12:17 PM

I think one thing that you are all missing is that a lot of the corporate IT shops I work with in the UK simply will not install silverlight.

I am in the JQuery camp but even if I wanted to go down the silverlight route then I could not.

Silverlight just did not get penetraition despite the marketing.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Luke Bennett at 9/3/2010 3:59 PM

@LBeige: Building a mobile platform on HTML5/JS is precisely what HP/Palm are doing with webOS. Yes, you can argue that the platform has hardly been a success but that wouldn't really be true - the platform is raved about, it's only the limited devices and Palm's business model that has held it back.

Expect big things from it in the future. Given Google's run-in with Oracle, who's to say they won't switch tack in the future anyhow?

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Todd Price at 9/3/2010 4:53 PM

I've been a ASP then ASP.NET developer for close to 15 years. My problem with SL is XAML. It's a new markup language that I just don't want to learn. Yet. Maybe Windows Phone 7 will push me over the edge.

HTML + JS + CSS is actually quite straightforward I find, and has much more community support and resources. Google (and Web Outlook) paved the way for AJAX and it's perfect for everything but rich media and some other niche cases, where SL is of interest.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Dave Ward at 9/3/2010 7:14 PM

I really don't understand the negative comments regarding JavaScript debugging. Having your debugger embedded directly inside the runtime environment (e.g. Firebug, IE Development Tools, Chrome/Safari Developer Tools) is superior to externally attaching to a process.

Firebug's debugging/REPL environment makes for one of the most pleasant and productive development workflows that you'll find on any platform.

I don't mean to be inflammatory, but claiming that JavaScript is difficult to debug reflects very poorly on a person's knowledge of the topic.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by HydroMan at 9/3/2010 9:28 PM

@Simone: If you think Silveright is limited to just Windows Phone, desktop apps and media applications, then you are sadly mistaken. Its a powerful platform that allows for GIS, Analytics, Infographics, R&D, Business Intelligence and a variety of other applications that require rich and compelling interfaces. I have worked on quite a few non-traditional type apps and the results have been awesome.. Things that would be hard to do in HTML(5), JS etc.... Please explore and open up your mind!

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Frank at 9/4/2010 1:32 AM

Assuming from reading the comments that people following that blog are toward to HTML/JS, i'll write my opinion.
In about 10 years of web development (HTML, DHTML, JS, CSS PHP, ASP 3.0, ASP.NET ecc...), i found inconvenient and messy, to put code and markup inside together in the same page. Some solutions to avoid this, are another mess.

I think that developing with JS and HTML5 is PRODUCTIVITY LESS then Silverlight. SL have Blend , VS2010 and all MS ecosystem, so with with ONE skill, you're able to create even alone, a full application using one language in a clear and clean enviroment.

XAML is not a requirement (but in case is 5 hours of studing, is very similiar to XML with some simple rules), and Blend will do everything ( even advanced Databinding ).
With EF you even do not require SQL to create and have CRUD operations on a Database. With Azure, all it's like a sharm.

I found Javascript messy and inconvenient. The same application with JS take 3 months, with SL about 3 Weeks. My company is investing time and resources to create games and applications in SL using all MS ecosystem.
JS and HTML 5 lacks of a real speedly development program (even i think Adobe will supply it in CS6) and will not be usable before 3 or 4 years. IN 2010 there are people in around 20% using IE6, how many years will be necessary to let people install a modern browser? In some years SL will support 3D and i'm sure Android and better support to Linux. HTML 5 and JS with their "patchwork like" using, will be used for simple websites by everyone, and by some people for large applications, while other peoples will continue to use Flash and in particular Silverlight to create incredible RIA for many devices and SO, with an incredible enviroment and productivity.

Apple is pushing JS a lot because cannot use SL for concutrrency reasoins and becasue Flash will destroy the power ontthe Appstore, so the only alternative is HTML5/JS, hoping that it will have a long time release so to control apps in the devices, but Flash and Silverlight, wanting or not, in some years will become more advanced than HTML5 will be in its finished version, and plugins will always be used to do something that standards can't do or can't do in a productive/acceptable way.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by HydroMan at 9/4/2010 2:45 AM

@Frank: Amen to that! You pretty much summed it up! My sentiments exactly!

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Wayne B at 9/4/2010 5:32 AM

It's pretty simple really. Building apps with JS/HTML/CSS requires you to cobble together a hodge-podge of tools and components to get really rich applications. There isn't even a standard set of UI controls.

With Silverlight, you get a nice pure environment that has a comprehensive set of components and controls and documentation. End of story.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Ian Smith at 9/4/2010 9:53 AM

By "compreshensive" I assume you mean "extremely buggy and not fixed in the 2 years since initially released"? :-P


(eg Here's two raised in just the last 24 hours!)
http://twitter.com/SLColinBlair/status/22900978972

gregdoesit.com/...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Tokes at 9/4/2010 9:57 AM

So much to say I wrote a post instead - the point I'd like to reinforce is that people need to stop thinking of HTML and SL as competitors, I think they mostly solve different problems and where there's an overlap it comes down to personal preference and available skills, andrewtokeley.net/...

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Wayne B at 9/4/2010 6:23 PM

@Ian Smith: OMG, there's ONE BUG that's been around for a couple of years!! They sky is falling!

I'll take a minor bug like this _any day_ over the multitude of browser inconsistencies and hodge podge of half-written tools that you use for your JS/HTML/CSS apps.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Stefano at 9/5/2010 11:53 AM

It's quite funny.. I think it could be easier if we will pay more attention on this sentence (from the mentioned article "The future of Silverlight"):
"This is where Silverlight comes in. On the web, the purpose of Silverlight has never been to replace HTML;...".
This also reminds me all the people that was working with Asp.Net "scared" about Asp.Net MVC, but a little bit worse, cause...uhmm.. let me think.. all this about HTML5, but where is it? Where is HTML5?
According to most of the articles and news about it around the net, the candidate standard of HTML5 will come in 2012.
So please.. explain me cause maybe I lost the point. Weren't we talking about spending/vesting (someone can say it wasting ;) ) money on the "right" technology (please if you know which one is it, will you be so kind to share it with us ;) )?
So... What is the best?
Something released or something simply not here.
This is the unofficial HTML5 W3C timeline:

* First W3C Working Draft in October 2007.
* Last Call Working Draft in October 2009.
* Call for contributions for the test suite in 2011.
* Candidate Recommendation in 2012.
* First draft of test suite in 2012.
* Second draft of test suite in 2015.
* Final version of test suite in 2019.
* Reissued Last Call Working Draft in 2020.
* Proposed Recommendation in 2022.

2022????? WTF???
Are you kidding me? Are you really comparing these two things?

Silverlight/Moonlight/Air are not only some async operation added to our web application. But could be just a nice start to deal with them. We can add no more "browser-compatibility" hell... and so on.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by T.J. Barbour at 9/6/2010 8:36 AM

Great conversation.

I've had professional project experience with both Silverlight and jQuery/MVC (pure web route if you will...)

Both Platforms have their ups and downs, but I think both point in different directions:

Silverlight --> Control: If you want tight vertical control of your application, Silverlight rocks. One language (C# on the client? yes!) and no I don't really count XAML b/c most devs are fimiliar with xml and a lot of it can be tool generated. Data binding and event handling is much more straight forward.

HTML/CSS/Javascript --> Reach: if you want to make your application available to the most people and most platforms as possible, this is the way to go. You wont get as tight integration between your server and client side, but there are LOTS of resources on it, since everyone is doing it. And lets not kid ourselves, javascript was pretty bleak before jQuery.

I've got plenty more to say, but I suppose I should just write a blogpost instead, I'll post it later if I get around to it.

Final word, I hope we all know this isn't a war, these are both great technologies that excel at different things but can still achieve almost anything. Heck, they can even work well together.

Thanx much, T.J.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Simone at 9/6/2010 9:15 AM

@TJ: Thank you for the great comment.
Even though I think that there are great sets of control UI component also for JavaScript.
Furthermore, using the Drag&Drop way of programming never lead (and will never lead) to something that is good and maintainable.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by T.J. Barbour at 9/6/2010 9:40 AM

@Simone

I Agree on both of your points.

- When I refer to vertical control I'm referring more to the fact that Silverlight is designed to work well with the .net stack while a html/js web frontend is more isolated and independent (which is sometimes a good thing too...) I'm currently using the jQuery UI stack in a project and its great!

- I don't think drag and drop is ideal either. But, you may drag some data grid or other complex control onto your view just to get started and save you from typing a few angle brackets, then get in there and really tweak it to what you need (if you even need to do that).

Another important factor to consider is navigation. Although SL3 introduced navigation and 'back button' support, HTML apps will always trump plug-ins for navigation and deep linking.

Keep up the good posts!
Thanx much, T.J.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Ryan Van Slooten at 9/7/2010 6:59 AM

Silverlight is indeed a niche technology in the sense that desktop apps, iPhone apps, Droid apps, and other non-HTML-based technologies are niches. If @hhariri thinks MS wanted Silverlight to displace HTML or as a replacement for the cliche Flash web site then, yes, SL would be obsolete and misguided.

Is Xcode/iPhone development obsolete? Is Droid app development obsolete? Are these technologies better, worse, or just different from SL? Clearly from the amount of apps in these App Stores, there is a significant amount of development outside the HTML realm. These applications may use common REST services or data sources as HTML counterparts, but not every application is (or should be) an HTML web app.

I have always been concern about the SL message, and it I don't think MS has been very good about the message either. Discussions like this one and the blogs mentioned in this post will hopefully improve and clarify the message and intent.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Ned Nedson at 9/8/2010 6:12 PM


We have a Silverlight site in beta that allows a user to find and play audio from over 10,000 files and 4,400 hours. We needed control over the media player because we wanted to display liner notes and limit the amount of audio played to 30 seconds unless you have a subscription.

I would never attempt this using javascript but Silverlight was actually fun.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Gian Maria at 9/10/2010 10:06 AM

@TJ: Great comment.

Silverlight --> Control and HTML/CSS/Javascript --> Reach probably is the real factor that makes us choose one technology over the other.<br />
for the Debugging fact, Javascript is a really good language, but being not statically compiled can be really dangerous if you want to use it for doing complex stuff. Using jQuery and a few lines of javascript is fun, implementing something more complex with javascript is a nightmare.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Hassan Selim at 9/14/2010 12:16 PM

I wrote a blog post to express my opinion about this huge debate, you can read it here.
I also wanted to say that I agree with almost everything Frank said (~38th comment from above).

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by Scott at 9/15/2010 2:56 PM

My company right now is in the process of researching the technologies to use in it's next release of a student information system. The old version has hundreds of ASP pages written in ASP 3.0. User interaction was written pre-JQuery JavaScript and home-grown AJAX. Business objects were implemented with thousands of COM+ objects written in VB. It's a nigtmare.

This article and raging debate about the future of Silverligt and whether to use HTML5/CSS/JS vs. Silverlight has NOT been helpful at all. :(

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by MBR at 9/29/2010 6:23 PM

Great thread...
Why would I want to spend months to do something I can do in weeks w/SL? (This comes from experience w/both.) Also, the set of 3rd party controls for SL is light-years ahead of what is provided in JS at any price, and the user experience is better.
And really, who cares about getting "locked in"? Every app should be rewritten every several years anyway - and each time it will take less time to write, provide the user with a better experince, and interoperate w/the newest kids on teh block.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by EvilTed at 10/15/2010 3:14 AM

You are missing the biggest feature of Silverlight 4 that cannot be replicated by HTML 5 or Flash, namely MEF.

The Managed Extensibility Framework allows for dynamic discovery and dynamic re-composition of the UI.
Add to that REAL software engineering in a object based high level language like C#, tools for refactoring, code checking, unit test etc and you have some compelling reasons WHY to use Silverlight.

And before you get started on jQuery, jQuery is a JavaScript library, written in JavaScript.
While it may be easy to write simple Web sites quickly, it is like low-level assembly language for the DOM.

RIA technologies like Flash, Silverlight and GWT are a much better solution for real business problems, where maintenance and quality become a very real problem really fast with HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

# re: Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

Left by vs at 11/1/2010 6:26 PM

If iPhone can do it without SL, jQuery+HTML+CSS Rocks! SL is a tail chaiser!

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