Silverlight 5 is done. Is Silverlight also done?

Microsoft has has announced the release of Silverlight 5.0.


Silverlight is a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in for Windows and Mac. It is relatively small size – less than 7MB according to Microsoft, though the Mac version seems to be bigger, with a 14MB compressed setup .dmg and apparently over 100MB once installed:


Never mind, it is a fine piece of work and has considerable capabilities, including the .NET Framework, the ability to render a GUI defined in XAML, multimedia playback, and support for applications running inside the browser or on the desktop. New in version 5 is better H.264 performance, 3D graphics, and Platform Invoke support on Windows enabling trusted applications to call the native API. Another change is that in-browser applications can also run with full trust, again only on Windows. The cross-platform idea has become increasingly diluted.

If Microsoft had come up with Silverlight early in the .NET story it might have become a major application platform. As it is, while still useful in some contexts, the technology has been side-lined by new things including HTML 5 and the Windows Runtime in the forthcoming Windows 8.

While I have huge respect for the team which created Silverlight and rapidly improved it, it now looks a sad story of reactive technology that failed to capture sufficient developer support. Microsoft invented Silverlight when Adobe Flash looked like it might take over as a universal runtime for web applications. The outcome was that Adobe evolved Flash with renewed vigour, keeping Silverlight at bay. Then Apple invented a new platform called iOS that supported neither Flash nor Silverlight, and the whole plug-in strategy began to look less compelling. Adobe has now reduced its focus on Flash, while Microsoft has been signalling a reduced role for Silverlight since its Professional Developers Conference in October 2010.

The question now is whether there will ever be a Silverlight 6.

Microsoft itself uses Silverlight across a number of products, such as administrative consoles for various server applications. Silverlight will be around for a while yet. Of course it is also the runtime for Windows Phone 7. Visual Studio LightSwitch generates Silverlight applications, and this one I am rather sad about, because it is an interesting tool that now seems to target the wrong platform. Perhaps the team will create an HTML 5 version one day.

8 thoughts on “Silverlight 5 is done. Is Silverlight also done?”

  1. Question is what exactly is now missing from Silverlight anyway?
    Silverlight 5 is pretty mature now, tooling is great too, so what’s missing?
    I don’t care too much if Silverlight 6 doesn’t exist anymore. I first need to know what I am missing before starting to cry about it.

  2. Tim,

    Silverlight 5 will be officially supported until 2021
    Silverlight 5 already have all features for building Line-Of-Business Applications
    Silverlight 5 is available for all major desktop platforms (All win editions + Mac)

    So it’s sad that Silverlight is done but it’s still best platform for business application at the moment.


  3. Re. “the wrong platform”:

    I guess every technology is “the wrong platform” or “the right platform”, depending on what you need to do and your budget.

    Clearly Silverlight is “wrong” for the iPad/iPhone, since it won’t run there at all. But is HTML5 “right” for the iPad/iPhone? Yes, it runs there, but most clients would rather have a native Objective-C iPad/iPhone app.

    For complex line-of-business or demanding video consumption apps running on Windows/Mac it will be a long time, if ever, that HTML5 comes up to the level of features, robustness and developer productivity of Silverlight.

    But for “simpler” apps with maximum reach to mobile devices HTML5 is probably the “right” choice.


    1. Vic

      Let’s imagine for a moment that LightSwitch generated HTML instead of Silverlight apps. Don’t you think there would be a great deal more interest?


  4. Tim,

    Yes, I agree that adding some kind of HTML output to LightSwitch would be a popular feature. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that in a future version.

    OTOH, I don’t think it’s an “either-or” proposition. I could see LS adding HTML as an additional supported client UI, maybe only targeting the smaller screens and touch UIs of tablets and phones.

    I think the primary customer of LightSwitch is a business user running desktop Windows with a normal sized browser and mouse. Silverlight (and LS v1) serves that use-case very well already.


  5. @Andrew

    For Business Apps, printing support is still poor. (cannot specify paper to be landscape. Vector printing on postscript printers only)

    More full featured Data Binding (Multibinding, x:Static, Inheritance context)

    Crisp fonts

    Selectable textblocks

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