Microsoft Silverlight: shattered into a million broken urls

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


I am not sure when it happened, but it is true. 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,,, 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.

35 thoughts on “Microsoft Silverlight: shattered into a million broken urls”

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

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

  3. 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.

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

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


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

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. @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.

  11. @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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 all good languages, but the problem is they all use vm, not native code

  19. 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.

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