Microsoft Silverlight: shattered into a million broken urls

There has been some Twitter chatter about the closure of silverlight.net, Microsoft’s official site for its lightweight .NET client platform. multimedia player and browser plug-in.

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I am not sure when it happened, but it is true. Silverlight.net now redirects to a page on MSDN. Some but not all of the content has been migrated to MSDN, but Microsoft has not bothered to redirect the URLs, so most of the links out there to resources and discussions on Silverlight will dump you to the aforementioned generic page.

One of the things this demonstrates is how short-sighted it is to create these mini-sites with their own top-level domain. It illustrates how fractured Microsoft is, with individual teams doing their own thing regardless. Microsoft has dozens of these sites, such as windowsazure.com, windowsphone.com, asp.net, and so on; there is little consistency of style, and when someone decides to fold one of these back to the main site, all the links die.

What about Silverlight though? It was always going to be a struggle against Flash, but Silverlight was a great technical achievement and I see it as client-side .NET done right, lightweight, secure, and powerful. It is easy to find flaws. Microsoft should have retained the cross-platform vision it started with; it should have worked wholeheartedly with the Mono team for Linux-based platforms; it should have retained parity between Windows and Mac; it should never have compromised Silverlight with the COM support that arrived in Silverlight 4.

The reasons for the absence of Silverlight in the Windows Runtime on Windows 8, and in both Metro and desktop environments in Windows RT, are likely political. The ability to run Silverlight apps on Surface RT would enhance the platform, and if COM support were removed, without compromising security.

XAML and .NET in the Windows Runtime is akin to Silverlight, but with enough differences to make porting difficult. There is an argument that supporting Silverlight there would confuse matters, though since Silverlight is still the development platform for Windows Phone 8 it is already confusing. Silverlight is a mature platform and if Microsoft had supported it in the Windows Runtime, we would have had a better set of apps at launch as well as more developer engagement.

I posted that Microsoft’s Silverlight dream is over in October 2010, during Microsoft’s final Professional Developers Conference, which is when the end of Silverlight became obvious. It lives on in Windows Phone, but I would guess that Windows Phone 8.5 or 9.0 will deprecate Silverlight in favour of the Windows Runtime. A shame, though of course it will be supported on the x86 Windows desktop and in x86 Internet Explorer for years to come.

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35 comments to Microsoft Silverlight: shattered into a million broken urls

  • Zhou Feng

    The biggest mistake Microsoft made was to stop developing VB6. Everything after that has been a failure.

  • The only problem of Silverlight was born too late.

  • Rob

    The fragmentation also illustrates how Windows is developed and how such disasters like Windows 8 and Internet Explorer come about.

  • jvanrhyn

    Zhou Feng, VB6, really?

  • Vic Klien

    Believe it or not but some of us are still programming Silverlight (business app for a client in my case). When I Google (or even Bing) a SL topic I frequently find a link back into the old SL Forums, which is now broken. Useful answers are often in those forum posts.

    How hard would it have been to set up some kind of URL redirector?

    This kind of incompetence and change-of-direction has made me much more skeptical about taking a chance on Windows 8 or WP8 development.

  • Only as a note, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t use Sikverlight. It has his own winrt version called WinPRT (Windows Phone Runtime)

  • Dale H

    I agree with Zhou Feng. VB6. All the youngsters don’t understand the power of that platform.

  • Silverlight hater

    I don’t have the patients to edit my words so here they are, i hope something out of my jabbering would be useful:

    I wrote the “gnashing of the teeth” comment on the wtf post (the original one) on SL forums.
    It’s obvious that you like SL, let me try to tell you what’s wrong with it.
    I don’t doubt that Silverlight might be technologically the most advanced tech we have, but it seems no one today trusts Microsoft w.r.t. patents and copyrights .
    Dotnet and Silverlight came from Microsoft in an era when the words ‘open source’ were taboo. It seems it’s one of the last proprietary techs coming out of Microsoft. Since then many Microsoft developers/advocates became OS champions. (Scott Henselmann, Andreas come to mind).

    Advice to you: leave it, check out what people are doing with standard “low tech” HTML/CSS/JS. you would be amazed (I especially like online IDEs and learning environments). In one or two years, 100 times more amazing things came from this community then the entire Silverlight community in who knows how many years. Which means: community >> technology.

  • tim

    Well, it kind-of does and kind-of doesn’t. But Silverlight phone apps still run on Windows Phone 8.

    Tim

  • Mike Davis

    I jumped on board the Silverlight train and a lot of my intranet content requires it. This is pure incompetence in my book and if I have to recreate any of this content, I’m really unlikely to consider Microsoft technology-centric approaches in the future.

    They obviously don’t realize how important developer investment in new technology is to selling the software that drives their bottom line. All my silverlight content is a frontend for things that are sitting on bought and paid for software, like SQL Server, SSRS, Sharepoint. No more silverlight and maybe I don’t need Sharepoint or SSRS anymore either…

  • Randal

    Who remembers Microsoft Blackbird from the mid-nineties? How did ActiveX do after that? Never, ever trust Microsoft when it comes to web client technologies or mobile phones.

  • Adriano

    My take on why they killed Silverlight … it made WINDOWS obsolete in the higher up’s eyes, for the near future. Silverlight was running the same app on a windows machine the same way it was running it on a mac.

    Windows RT is a big confusion for normal people … no wonder they (M$) can’t sell it.

    I agree with Mike Davis, I’m in the same boat as him, already proposing changing the direction of our app development into a non Microsoft future. the biggest thing I am going to miss will be they’re development tools that in my view are unmatched so far.

  • aaaa

    @Adriano – their development tools are addictive but that is it. Once you jump ship you will soon find that they are not unmatched or even superior.

  • DRichards

    @Zhou Feng, Dale: VisualBasic was a great leap forward at the time for quickly developing Windows apps. Towards version 6 it was truly showing its age – not the IDE but the language. .Net and C# are a true breath of fresh air in comparison to using the kuldge that is Basic.

  • stuartd

    VB6? Pah. Now, eMbedded VB, there was a product and a half..

  • bojanb

    wp8 is still Silverlight. it still has issues with elements with width height over 2048px and canvas.left on positions over 2^15, agcore, coreclr , just start a profiler on wp8 win8 you will see.

  • Alex Atkin UK

    I suspect Adriano is right, they are trying to kill Silverlight as it gave people a path to migrate away from Windows on the desktop.

    This would seem to be all too apparent with Sliverlight on Linux, Moonlight.

    Microsoft started by giving it support, but in the later versions of Silverlight things like DRM and Microsoft codecs became key and of course they didn’t want those on Linux so they were omitted. Thus today we have things like Netflix that do not work on Linux as they use Silverlight.

    I guess Microsoft realised they were undermining their own OS adopting by supporting Linux and so put the brakes on. Rather than what they need to be doing, which is finding alternative revenue streams so they remain relevant even if people move away from Windows on the desktop.

  • Seth Strong

    I’m working on Silverlight as we speak. I can’t really comment on Microsoft reorganizing sites beyond saying that does seem to be avoidable but I like the technology.

  • Guys, you’ll be suprised, but you can actually build RIA application using Unity3d with C# and Visual Studio:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu0ACrMPDgU&feature=youtube_gdata_player http://edrivenunity.com
    Unity Technologies is company constantly making good decisions and is not gonna dissapoing their users because gaming is what drives their engine in the first place.

  • Neil McLachlan

    This dumping of an entire URL structure is just madness and totally unacceptable; I have difficulty believing this is the intent, and hopefully they will fix up some redirection soon enough. It’s not difficult to do, even after the fact.

    However, people here complaining about MS dropping silverlight altogether have no-one but themselves to blame. The future of web apps was pretty damn clear by 2006 or so, Silverlight was the very worst platform choice for lots of reasons. I hope you’ve at least learned from this.

  • totally agree that the death of vb6 was the death of Microsoft!

  • Sergey

    My company paid a very heavy price for starting a fairly big project using Silverlight.
    Eventually it resulted in complete change of direction. In our case we planned to use SQL Server and sh#$%^&load of other expensive M$ products, now we move to Java and abandon M$ crap-ware, too expensive and unreliable.

    In our case Micro$oft lost a lot of money.

  • Jeff

    Over and over people make the mistake of believing that MS does anything except for strategic reasons. Silverlight was a strategy to stop the growth of Flash. Flash became a dead-end for Adobe – i.e. not a strong revenue generator – because of the combination of Silverlight, free implementations, and HTML5. Once Adobe end-of-lifed Flash, there was no longer a strategic reason for Silverlight. Boom. Gone the way of so many other things from Microsoft.

    It’s not as if lots of people didn’t predict exactly this outcome.

    If you are programming for Surface, you will be fked. If you are programming against Win 8, you will be fked. You’re probably ok if you are developing against WinPhone – as long as you take money from MS Marketing – cos you aren’t going to make a ton from consumers. But MS will continue to pour money into it in the hope of blunting Android and iPhone. Xbox: grab the marketing money though. You’d be mad to program for WinRT: it’s just a way of pressuring Intel,it provides a small potential exit route from Intel hardware onto lower cost platforms, and it’s a strategic anti anti-trust manoeuvre.

    The lesson to take away is not to link your fortunes to a technology that is promoted for a strategic reason by a gorilla, whether it’s MS, Apple, Oracle or whatever. These things go away as the conditions of the market change, and you’ll be left stranded.

    What doesn’t go away are the core products. One’s where millions are sold.

  • john

    I agree with Zhou Feng too. VB6 is the last success of microsoft.
    After vb6, microsoft is killing by it’s .net, like sun was killed by java.
    c# and vb.net all good languages, but the problem is they all use vm, not native code

  • guest

    WindowsClient.net site is also gone, dont know since how long ago though

  • mika

    I think Microsoft should accept what they are, a proprietary platform. They should have stuck to their guns on Silverlight, and pushed and pushed it. Eventually they could have had the OS within every OS.

    I think they are making a big mistake trying to be opensource / open platform. If all of their development tools / environments / platforms are standards based and generic, why would anyone need to use their stack particularly?

    To me it is a classic example of what happens in society, you get a minority of people making a lot of noise about some particular topic and it takes on far more significance than it deserves. And when people get on their high-horses about some sort of ‘moral’ topic, few people have the energy to argue against them (take political correctness as an example). Only a very small proportion of society really cares whether a particular application \ website is standards based, but because the zealots keep banging on and on and on about it, the fools at Microsoft bought into it and they will eventually have nothing to distinguish themselves from the pack.

  • John S

    Microsoft only have themselves to blame for the failure of SL – because of their half-hearted commitment. The fact that OWA never adopted SL was a clear indication big hitters at MS never bought in.
    Having said that, I’m loving the new focus on HTML and TypeScript. TS look awesome!! TouchDevelop, wow. And when you run it on IE9 it recommends Firefox, hahaha.

  • Knurpht

    Silverlight? To me that’s the thing that’s keeping me from my son’s schoolrecords, that’s kept me from watching public TV broadcast sites(these moved from Silverlight), and the ultimate example of what is wrong with proprietary systems if you want freedom and independence. Happy linux-only user since 2001.

  • Alexandre Jacquot

    i think that now everybody is aware that we must invest time just programming with cross-platform tools. Dot Net was the Java for windows only. it use that CLI technology that basically use your processor for nothing usufull. Microsoft recognizes its mistake. i think that the WinRT API is something great, but without Microsoft tools, you are not allowed actually to write software for that platform. Windows was a sucess, because you could buy all the softwares you need from different vendors.

    Microsoft will have to write all the softwares for that platform, and Microsoft will not deliver, because some markets are just too small for that big company.

  • Richard Smith

    For all of those seriously stating that VB6 was the last great thing MS did – you are f kidding right? Or did u all stop real world development in 2001?

    As someone who moved from VB6 to C# in 2003, there is no comparison between the languages. C# is so much more coherent and powerful. Linq anyone? Lambda expressions?

    Give me a break!

  • The strength in VB6 wasn’t the core language or anything else from Microsoft itself, it was the cottage industry and ecosystem around it. It was the closest Microsoft ever came to having a big community around a product.

  • Anthony

    For those of you who are bemoaning the death of VB6, go take a look at RealBasic. It’s cross platform, truly OOP, and is a language who’s syntax “just makes sense”.

  • Cricri

    I loved VB6 and still do. .Net? No thanks, chances are some of the users won’t have .net, or rather the right of the many versions of the framework.
    I hear people saying “but .net has lots of bells and whistles to help you do your job”. Well, I never had any problem achieving what I wanted in VB6, even if it meant typing few extra lines of code.
    I hear other people saying “Pah, VB is crap for noobs, #proudly# I use C-whatever”. Well, I’ve coded quite a bit in VB and had some of my programs outperform some C equivalent. Why? Because some people insist using something in theory better, but that they fail to master. In the end, they’d be better off using VB as a nicely written VB program can outperform a badly written C-whatever program.
    Finally, when I was a research student, some of my colleagues were using C while I was coding in VB. Within few hours I had something working, while they didn’t finish creating their classes/forms yet! Rapid Application Development, with guarantee to work on any NT windows, that’s what I always needed, and nothing ever did it as well as VB6 for me.

  • Mike p

    Hate to chime in late, but agree on the abandonment of VB6 was their first bad step, their second was their entire data layer. I can understand the shift from odbc to oledb, but the shift from ado to ado.net was their second giant mistake. Forcing us to use disconnected data sets, giving up record locking, compromising performance was just the beginning of the issues. Lots of great database technologies were lost namely DBF/(foxpro) and now MDB(access). It’s taken M$ years to finally slim down SQL to their “local db” model while developers lost 10 years in the name of “.net” as they tried to battle Java an with its disconnected JIT compiled nightmare as their framework grew larger then some OS’s

    Also

    As a language – I can’t complain about vb.net or c# (let’s thank Borland and Java), but much better threading over vb6 and the language constructs itself. A necessary improvement, but it didn’t need to be the end of VB6 and VFP – they should of consisted and merged my eleagantly

    My 2 cents

  • Mike p

    While I’m ranting, can they decide and focus on a web technology? They were all about ASP until ASP.net came along then for some time we get Mvvm and Mvc (back to SmallTalk we go, Gang of Four) then we should further complicate things with web forms and web services and soap / RIA / Odata… (Bye ole/dcom) Now we have MVC4 and “razor” and silverlight has gone to Lightswitch with HTML (guess M$ couldn’t beat flash) Adobe even smart to abandon development in the wake of HTML5. Then we can act like we can support a Php stack in IIs which will just make us wish we used apache … And then why not Linux… Argh

    Microsoft use to embrace developers and excite them, now they seem to confuse us by guving us too many tools and making us hope their a future for the code we write within them. Just like most, I have no choice because I live in a windows world and have for 20 years (sorry deskview)

    Good luck in the arm and phone world with windows 8 pronounced (hate). Your’re a bit late in the slate race as google and apple mop the floor with you. Keep you developers happy or your done (Bill’s motto)

    More cents,
    Mike