Microsoft launched Silverlight yesterday in a blaze of stunning demos at the MIX07 keynote yesterday. The demos were not done by Microsoft but by partner companies who were given access to Expression Studio (the Silverlight development tools) a couple of weeks ago.
Everyone I have talked to at MIX was blown away.
To my mind the most impressive demo was by Beau Ambur of Metaliq. Beau demo’d a video editing app which was extremely easy to use, very powerful and browser based. Yes, you read that correctly, browser-based! It took me a while for that to sink in with me too. I was watching Beau’s demo, thinking, wow, that’s cool when it suddenly dawned on me that there was an address bar at the top of the screen! Hang on a sec, he’s doing this in a browser? You can do this in a browser? Wow!
Even more impressive was that the demo (called Top Banana) had a 50k footprint!
What is did Microsoft announce? It breaks down into:
- Expression Studio – the development tools for creating Silverlight content
- Silverlight plugin for consuming Silverlight content and
- Silverlight Streaming for (free) hosting your Silverlight created content
Silverlight, and its development tools have changed radically how video will be created, published and consumed on the web. The guys in Joost must be watching this with interest!
[Disclosure – Microsoft paid most of my travel, conference entry and accommodation expenses for the MIX07 conference]
16 thoughts on “Silverlight”
You can do anything “in a browser” if you make people install a plugin like Silverlight. Similarly, 50k footprint is great, but how big is the plugin you have to download first?
Did you see any sign that Silverlight will not suffer from exactly the same usability problems that Flash (and any plugin that tries to take over UI duties form the browser) does?
the Mac plugin is about 2mb and the pc version is 1.1mb.
By usability are you referring to the accessibility issues that Flash has? If so, I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I’ll try to find out and come back with a follow-up comment later.
No not really. I don’t know the state of that. I was talking about things from a normal user’s perspective, for example: links in Flash are not the same as links in HTML. I can’t right click on a Flash link and select “open in a new tab”. I have firefox set up to spell check all text boxes, but Flash text boxes don’t get spell checked of course. There are always going to be issues like that when you duplicate browser functionality.
Given these problems, why is Flash still so ubiquitous? Video and audio are one answer. It’s the best way to deliver streaming media compatibly right now. The next version of HTML will address this. So if you subtract audio and video, what else do Flash and Silverlight offer? The other answer is probably better development tools. I have never developed for Flash but I get the impression that Adobe’s tools make it much easier for designers to get what they want with Flash than they can get with tools that output HTML/CSS/JS. This doesn’t have to be the case. Adobe and MS could direct their efforts to tools that make the real web easier.
I think you are misguided in promoting something like Silverlight. Either we really need this and they should make it an open standard, an integral part of all browsers, or we don’t really need it and it’s going to cause usability/incompatibility problems. There is a W3C group working on the next version of HTML right now, leading on from the work done by the WHATWG. IMHO you would better serve the web community by learning about and advocating that work. I’m afraid they can’t fly you around to conferences though 😉 (That’s not a dig at you, I’m just saying you should be aware that MS have an agenda and that there are alternatives)
Given the experiences you’ve had with the laptop MS sent you, I’m surprised you didn’t have major problems with the travel and accommodation they paid for!
But this doesn’t actually address any of my concerns. Right?
Sorry… I was thinking this would help because it enables you to use the best of both worlds… For example if you want links that work JUST like the browser’s HTML links but are programmatically controled from Silverlight you can easily to that by using this html bridge feature… Just define an and position it over your silverlight content…
Ok, I understand that point. But it’s not really about what I want to be able to do as a developer. It’s about what I want to be able to do as a user. Silverlight encourages (far more than Flash even it seems) web developers to create custom UIs within Silverlight rather than HTML. Just look at your own sample apps. Am I mistaken? To me, that is unnecessary duplication of functionality and only leads to problems down the line?
My problem with Silverlight is that I don’t see any benefit to users or developers in the long run, only problems. Please help me understand why this is a good thing for the web?
Sorry that should have read:
Yes, I see your pointâ€¦ we had many debates internally along those lines. I have personally been working on ASP.NET AJAX for over a year now and customers are asking for more. We have customers today that write lots of VB and C# code on the server and they want to be able to reuse those skills on in the web client space. For them getting something that is part of the .NET Framework that uses their programming languages (C#, VB, Xaml, etc) in their tools (Visual Studio, Expression) is super important. I think we have done this is a way that is very synergistic with the standards so they can be used togetherâ€¦ it is not either or… Go grab the bits and take a lookâ€¦ Iâ€™d love to hear your feedback on what you can build.
As far as what people will do with the power we give themâ€¦ Iâ€™d guess there will be some â€œexperimentalâ€ UIs that are just bad (as was the â€œâ€ tag), but this phase will pass and the right design patterns will emerge in time.
That’s all fine. I have nothing against getting more language availability on the client-side. But you shouldn’t be giving these developers the false impression that they are creating “web” applications. They are just creating applications (that happen to be sandboxed). There is more to the web than living inside a browser. If someone defined the properties of the web I would hope they included the following:
* Universal accessibility, regardless of platform – something that will never happen for Silverlight as long as it is a proprietary platform.
* Hackability – View Source is a fundamental feature of the web. Without it there would be no Greasemonkey, bookmarklets wouldn’t be as cool, and I probably wouldn’t even be a computer scientist. Can you View Source every Silverlight app?
* Linkability = Can you even link to a certain state of a Silverlight app? Only if the producer explicitly allows it, right?
Btw, if you really cared about integration of other languages on the client-side you could have co-opted the script tag, or created a plugin that didn’t have any display.
What about security? The concept of code being pushed to my machine by me just visiting the web is not a sound one. Yes, we have this in JS and that is proving to be more and more of a security concern. Will this be the next Active X?
I really don’t like the idea of large amounts of code being pushed at my machine. Browsers are for surfing the web, not editing video!
The fact that no one seems to be asking about the security of this idea is worrying.
Also, does the web really need another closed standard? Yay! more vendor lock-in!
I think this is one thing that Microsoft have actually worried about. Managed code has been an integral part of the .NET platform since the very start.
Ha. Too late dude. There’s no going back now.
Via macosxhints.com, anyone who has previously installed Silverlight as the beta “WPF/e” should remove “WPFe.plugin” from /Library/Internet Plug-Ins before installing Silverlight. The new Silverlight installer does not look for the old beta plug-in and installs itself beside it, effectively leaving you with two conflicting copies of the same plug-in.
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