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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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”.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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

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