On Silverlight

time to read 2 min | 375 words

I read Davy Bryon’s post about the future direction of Silverlight with a great deal of interest. But I think that Davy is missing a significant point.

First, I agree with Davy about a few things. Silverlight for public facing applications is going to be… problematic. Support for mobile devices, something that becomes ever so increasingly important, isn’t really there. And there seems to be a lot more reticence to “bet the farm” on public facing web sites by most companies. A good example of public facing Silverlight application is Justin’s blog. Which is really nice, but has the following issues:

  • It has a long loading time compared to most websites.
  • The scrolling inside the Silverlight application feels… wrong, compared to the one in the browser. It works, but I think it uses a different scroll size than the browser.
  • I can’t zoom with the keyboard (Ctrl –, Ctrl +, Ctrl 0).

All of that doesn’t really matter, to be perfectly frank. Silverlight isn’t really meant for websites, and blogs are probably one of the most common examples of web sites. Silverlight main purpose is applications. Cast your mind a few years back, to the rise of the Web Applications. Why did it happen? Mostly because the cost of deploying desktop software to all the machines in the organization was so high. Building a web application reduced deployment costs.

But web applications are still pretty hard to do, compared to desktop applications, if you want to have similar UX. And the number one problem that keeps recurring is that you have to manually manage the state. Silverlight gives you the same null cost of deployment, but with a lot of the advantages of building desktop applications. Mostly, again, because of the state. Yes, I am well aware that there is a large body of knowledge on how to build complex web applications in pure HTML/JS. But that is still harder than building a Silverlight application.

And that is where I see Silverlight being used most often. It isn’t replacing the company’s site, it is replacing all the internal applications and systems that used to be HTML applications.