Some say the writing on the wall suggests Silverlight is dead and HTML5 reigns supreme, but have they read the fine print too?
Microsoft Silverlight is a technology that was originally built to compete with Flash, but never caught on with mainstream web developers as much. However, because of the existing Microsoft code base and the number of web and application developers familiar with with the underlying technologies, it soon outpaced Flash as the preferred form of interactive development when interfacing with Microsoft products. This was in part because it allowed significantly more interaction between Microsoft objects, but also because of the elegance of the suite and interoperability it offered across disciplines.
From a development perspective, Silverlight rounded out missing elements that Flash lacked or required third party tools to accomplish. While it never overtook Flash, it quickly earned it’s place in a market that Flash had previously dominated. Because many Silverlight developers were also application programmers, many began producing very complex sites and interactions. An excellent example of the power of Silverlight can be seen on a web application developed by the Viscom Software Company. They took Silverlight to the limits of its web capabilities, producing an amazing array of free online photo editing tools.
Tools like these gave rise to a Silverlight development community that, while less broad than the Flash community, had far more application developers as a percentage of its membership. As such they were able to produce a much greater range of tools within the Microsoft ecosystem, without the need for third party dependencies. However, when the iPhone was released, there was an exodus of both users and developers from Flash to HTML5 that also impacted Silverlight.
During this period, Microsoft remained relatively silent on the subject of future releases and updates to Silverlight, prompting speculation that it was abandoning the application. Internally quite the opposite happened, with Microsoft releasing a detailed article describing the application as a tool, and committing to Silverlight support through the year 2021, which is an eternity in terms of application support – especially if the application wasn’t going to be receiving further development.
While no technology remains viable forever, users have remained dedicated to the platform. As demonstrated by Viscom (linked above), there are powerful browser-based tools the application continues to make possible. The fact that the developer community continues to produce these applications is a strong indication that Silverlight will remain a viable solution for application development for years to come.