May 2, 2007
Microsoft announced Silverlight on Monday. Robert Scoble says “Microsoft rebooted the Web“. So I’ve read a bit about Silverlight as well as Adobe Apollo (the main competitor), watched some vodcasts, and I think I’ve slowly formed an opinion.
So what is Silverlight? Well its Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash mostly, and in my opinion, that is its main strength. It is a browser plugin (like Flash) that attempts to be cross-browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari) and cross-platform (Windows and Mac). That is a big step for Microsoft and it gives content creators an option other than Flash. Competition is a good thing.
There was a reason Java Applets didn’t make sense running inside of web pages and I’m a little surprised that both Microsoft and Adobe have forgotten that. Check that. I’m surprised that those excited about the RIA aspects of Silverlight/Apollo have forgotten that. The URL is king. If you are creating something that can not be linked to you better have a darn good usability reason to do so. This applies to AJAX, Flash, and Silverlight. Google Finance with their Flash based interactive stock graph is a good example of a special case that works. So now there is a Microsoft alternative to Flash for these special cases. Good for them (really). I’m sure there will be new interactive visualization applications that will be very cool, but I think these types of applications will be few and far between while HTML applications with URLs/Links will continue to rule the day.
Now what I’m really excited about is the possibility that a new browser-based video player might spur everyone (Adobe, Microsoft, Apple) to support one standardized video format (either h.264 or MP4/DivX). I shouldn’t have to worry about formats when playing video in the browser, iPod, Apple TV, or Xbox 360. One Ring to Rule Them All please.