Internet hype technology of the week: Silverlight

Microsoft is amazing. WPF/E has been around for ages. They give it a fancy name and run a keynote about it at MIX and suddenly it’s the biggest thing to hit (Microsoft) web development since someone came up with a catchy name for ajax.

This week it seems like its the only thing that anyone is talking about.

Hype aside I think it looks like an interesting technology. From what I’ve read, the big difference between Silverlight and Flash is the way Silverlight can be integrated into a regular webpage. You can create little pieces of Silverlight that can interact with the rest of the page through the DOM. They can also have hooks that your javascript objects can use to interact with them. You could also write all the code that’s currently written in javascript in a CLR language instead. I don’t know if that’s going to be useful to everyone, but I can see how some people would like that. Scott Hanselman had the best information that I’ve seen about what it can do.

On the other hand I haven’t heard anything that makes it fundamentally different to what we can already do with regular HTML+javascript or with Flash. It’s run on top of .NET, which is great, but Flash actually has a pretty decent programming model as well. It’s easy to write object oriented code in the latest version of ActionScript plus it’s designed especially for creating multimedia type stuff.

The most interesting post I’ve seen from anyone who doesn’t like the idea of silverlight is a post about the advantages of using open technologies to make rich internet applications. HTML+javascript has been a pretty mighty force so far even though it seems that every other month someone tries to come up with something that feels less like a hack. The advantages are something I find quite hard to explain to people who are used to working on desktop applications but I think the sheer number and diversity of internet applications speak for itself.

I guess the really interesting thing will be seeing whether Silverlight will end up being a good fit for rich internet applications or multimedia or something that’s all together new. I personally feel a little weary of the hype but unfortunately it seems to just be part of the circle of life for internet technologies.

Posted on 19 May 07 by Helen Emerson (last updated on 19 May 07).
Filed under Web development