Microsoft Silverlight: a truly interactive web experience

Microsoft Silverlight

I’ve recently attended the Irish Microsoft Technology Conference, and was quite impressed by some of the tech talks presented. One of the presentations featured Microsoft Silverlight, and I just wanted to share with you some info about it.

Silverlight: an official definition

Microsoft® Silverlight™ is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. Silverlight offers a flexible programming model that supports AJAX, VB, C#, Python, and Ruby, and integrates with existing Web applications. Silverlight supports fast, cost-effective delivery of high-quality video to all major browsers running on the Mac OS or Windows.

How does it work?

You’ve got to download a Silverlight plugin for your browser, it’s a 1.3Mb which installs automatically on Internet Explorer and requires you to install it and restart the browser if you’re a Firefox or Safari user.

Just like with Flash, once you come across a Silverlight object on one of the pages, you will most likely see an icon inviting you to download the plugin.

Silverlight is a purely client-side technology, which means you can serve its pages from any webserver on any platform.

Currently, Silverlight is beta 1.0, with a lot promised to be improved and added in 1.1

What is it like?

I think that a typical Silverlight experience will look very similar to any advanced Flash, however, it’s a completely new technology and has a potential of taking over the interactive web. The main difference compared to Flash is that Silverlight pages are not using a proprietary binary format, but instead are presented by XAML source code.

Everything is done through scripting the XAML code, and that’s why there are no limitations or requirements for a specific web server platform which should be used for delivering such content.

The language itself is rather intuitive, especially for developers on Microsoft platform.

Here’s an example, please go to the Silverlight: Quickstarts page to see what it does:

<Canvas
xmlns=“http://schemas.microsoft.com/client/2007”
xmlns:x=“http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml”>

<Ellipse
Height=“200” Width=“200”
Stroke=“Black” StrokeThickness=“10” Fill=“SlateBlue” />
</Canvas>

More examples?

It’s probably a good idea to check the main Silverlight page from time to time, it’s meant to highlight all the recent news and changes to the project and has a relates blogs aggregate for easier exploration of other resources found on the web.

Silverlight Community page would be a great start for you to experience this new technology. It’s a gallery of the best examples of Silverlight applications written to the moment.

Here are just a few I really like (they also happen to be most popular on the community page, and for a good reason):


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