Post-PDC HTML5 v. Silverlight Debate

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I've been an advocate of Silverlight since it was called WPF/E, so I am not quite an unbiased observer. I decided to sit back and watch the twitterverse explode and see what the world thought. The Silverlight guys got angry; the ASP.NET guys got glib; the open source guys ignored us all.

In case you haven't seen, this was the Mary-Jo Foley article that started it:

I've seen a couple of blog posts on it including (in no discernable order):

I looked for some blogs on the otherside, but I found most to be either smug (e.g. "See Microsoft will always fail") or off the point (e.g. "Silverlight failed because we hate IE6"). If you have some to share, please add a comment.

So What Do I think?

My view hasn't changed in the last few years on this (and it didn't change today):

  • Silverlight is good for Apps; HTML is good for sites.

That's it. I didn't say use the words "only", "must", "should" or "can't". Its all a matter of your priorities.

Flame away please... ;)





Hadi Hariri Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre Mary-Jo Foley:


Laurent Bugnion Saturday, October 30, 2010

Exactly. And sometimes, people want apps to be hosted in an HTML Pages, and that is fine too :-)


slavof Saturday, October 30, 2010

As I answered to Mr. Galloway on twitter...

I agree that there's no difference between the Mary-Jo ZDNet (you quoted above) and the Silverlight Team blog post back in early September (

But it is also true that message from Microsoft about Silverlight was changed.

Now, primary Microsoft technology for creating cross platform, cross-device solutions is HTML5 and not SL. And SL is now technology for special cases like gaming, multimedia, maybe special business apps where you can find concrete reason not to use primary/general technology which is (now) HTML5.

Reason for this change is mainly appearence of non-PC devices like iOS devices (iPhone, iPad), Android devices, ...

Ray Ozzie wrote a good memo about such future -

So I put this differently from you:

SL is good from special apps and HTML5 is good for all other.

And I think Microsoft position Siliverlight in that way.



tracker1 Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honestly, I haven't really been much of a fan of Silverliht... I like C# a lot, and really like MVC. I just haven't really seen the poing of silverlight. IMHO I just remember all the times MS has taken projects that are cross platform, and then the Windows-only releases came out. I know Moonlight i out there, but MS (who controls the codecs in their deal with Novell) holds back the DRM support. The Mac version support slipped a couple of times as browsers updated as well. I would feel a lot different if their cross platform work wasn't always so half hearted. I happen to have a Windows 7 dekstop, I'm typing this on my Win7 HTPC. I also happen to work with windows based software professionally. However, I like to dabble and use Linux where it suits me, and run a nice Macbook Pro for my current laptop. I generally choose to use software i can take with me, and Silverlight based software just doesn't fit this mold very well at all.

I actually do see it as being qute a bit nicer to work with than Flash and Flex, however with the Flash penetration, IMHO it was a rather stupid move. Improving the web development tools should have been higher priority from the start, and only relatively recently have things actually gotten better. I've been following node.js and mongodb with some great enthusiasm, and just don't see MS working well in that space. The JSON support in .Net is still very inflexible and sub-par... Ms dropped managed JScript, and even dramatically decreased support for the DLR as a whole. It's hard to stay enthusiastic about a company that consistently lets you down.

The irony here is I'm pretty agnostic as far as technology goes. My MS friends think I'm a Linux guy, my Mac friends think I'm a windows guy... I'm just fan of technoloy, who happens to like a few of the tools MS provides.


Brian Genisio Saturday, October 30, 2010

I wrote up my take on it... which is quite different from what I have seen others say. I think we ARE moving in a different direction... but in a very good way:


Joe Saturday, October 30, 2010

I think this issue is less about runtime platform, it's more about development platform. MS showed off HTML5 and have switched strategy without any support for developers.

This switch makes all progress on .NET (EntityFramework, RIAServices, C# v.Next etc) useless to client developers. There was no clear strategic message for client development at PDC. If you going to announce something - it should be at their developer conference.


Virgil Saturday, October 30, 2010

For Web APPS Silverlight is a laser sword and Html5 is a wooden stick.


Michael Washington Saturday, October 30, 2010

There is nothing wrong with your statement:

"Silverlight is good for Apps; HTML is good for sites."

People don't know what apps we are talking about besides the phone (and in the USA that phone is not out yet).

So, if I have a Silverlight website does that mean my situation will no longer be supported, do I have an app or a website?

If my "website" is an app, then what does that statement mean about HTML5 being good for sites?

This is why I feel that message is not going to work :)

The Silverlight community is feeling like they will be "FoxPro'ed" :)


Jason Young Saturday, October 30, 2010

I agree they both have their niches. Unfortunetly whether we like it or not alot of institutions are not switching away from IE6, so the capabaility of delivering rich application via Silverlight is a good option for them.
Much of the internal development at the bank I am currently working at is Silverlight for this reason.


Dave Campbell Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Silverlight is good for Apps; HTML is good for sites." -- I'm not only in agreement with you on this, Shawn, but it's the solution I've been bantering about since the WPF/E days... the whole site does NOT have to be Silverlight, put down SL islands where you need them... essentially the proper tool for the proper job!


Chris Moore Saturday, October 30, 2010

HTML-based "applications" have been, are and always will be hacks. HTML was never designed to support rich client scenarios and all of the energies expended ala javascript/jquery/ajax are essentially clever ways to work around this fundamental fact. I was elated when I learned that MS was creating a "unified development platform" for desktop/web - this was when the were calling it wpf/e - and I am now dismayed that they are effectively marginalizing it. Silverlight is a *great* platform on top of which I have built several enterprise applications. To think that MS is now going to start pushing HTML back down our throats in the guise of HTML "5" makes me a little naseaus. The fact that Silverlight is a great development platform adds insult to injury. This is a step BACKWARDS, not forward.


Albsure Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's pretty sad really. Microsofts trump card has always been that they will support an upgrade technology that they back. That's the main reason why big companies run with MS products. To have them cock up a message about silverlight (and in reality WPF/XAML development) on such a public scale is alarming.

When I heard Scott Barnes' rant about the infighting between the IE/Office guys and the development guys over Silverlight I started to realise to my horror that MS had become "political" not "technological".

The reason for the lack of silverlight/wpf success in the wder world is entirely political. The public message this week from MS is going to kill dead new silverlight development from big corporations on the desktop. What CTO is going trust MS with silverlight now?

The sad thing is , it IS the best tool for the job. The WPF/Silverlight programming model is so far advanced of ANY programming framework out its not funny. It really is. And it so sad to see Microsoft cock it up based on some bullshit infighting between their teams.

I just don't think people realise HOW HARD and unmanageable JavaScript/HTML apps of scale are to program. They triple development time on even the most trivial apps. Dealing with session state etc.. It's far worse than what we had with VB5!!

MS should refocus. They are worrying me trying to chase the consumers when they should be thinking about enterprise and businesses. Thats what pays the rent. You don't see Oracle wasting time trying to be the next Apple! I think that once MS do battle in the open consumer space with the googles and apples they are gonna find themselves on the back foot. They don't even have any dev tools for HTML 5 yet.. What a joke...


MadDog Sunday, October 31, 2010

The stupid Microsoft chiefs who made this decision should resign and Mooo Muglia first for not knowing the thing he was talking about


Alan Cobb Sunday, October 31, 2010

For another perspective on this, see Bart Czernicki's blog post (search for "silverlight hack"): "Top 5 Reasons Why Microsoft Completely Screwed up their web strategy with HTML 5". Bart wrote a SL4 LOB book for Apress.


MadDog Sunday, October 31, 2010

Man, a big mistake was made here from MS, the big chiefs who made it should jut resign, they don't know what they're talking about. It's stupidity at it's peak.
I mean, where are he MS tools for html5??? What is the MS strategy regarding silverlight-html5, the one their customers didn't know about?? The best devs embarked on wpf/silvelight, trading those for html5 is like trading katana samurais for peasants with wooden sticks.


Butler Reynolds Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sigh. I've been building business applications in the HTML world for the past 12+ years (and other technology 5 years before that).

When I went to the web world, I always felt like I took a step backward. I was really hoping that by now I'd be working with technology that did not feel so sloppy and hacked.


Serious about SL future? Sunday, October 31, 2010

MS primary feedback page:


Steve Bacarat Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Silverlight is good for Apps; HTML is good for sites."

I think this sums it right up. The ability to run c# across a variety of platforms is fantastic. I wish if MS were serious they would look at Mac (performance) and Linux support more seriously.


Tim Monday, November 1, 2010

This is something that will take a very long time to play out, probably more than 5 years... Unfortunately the messaging from MS is convoluted and confusing. To me the immediate impact looks like MS has strategicly hurt their chances to entice developers to their phone platform.


Anoop Monday, November 1, 2010

Let us agree on the fact that when we talk about web applications, there is a certain area of overlap between HTML 5 and Silverlight. Also, There is a different angle to this, this is not just about a developer's career.

The fact is, today, a number of enterprises already started investing in Silverlight for their next generation web applications. What those guys are going to do now? Scrap the existing Silverlight projects, because Microsoft says Silverlight is not that cross browser/cross platform any more, and it is no longer the preferred platform for developing web applications?

My take here -

It is a matter of trust, not just a shift in strategy..


yysun Monday, November 1, 2010

I think Silverlight should be the platform for tablet/slate, if any is planned.


Valerie Whittier Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The problem with Silverlight and Flash and (insert proprietary standard here) is that they are not portable.

In the age where Microsoft dominated the desktop computing environment, the application of the Pareto principle created a situation in which "software architects" spewed computer science nonsense backed by Microsoft's agenda du jour.

Where I went to school, rule #1 was that "things always change, write portable code, and NEVER, EVER, EVER use proprietary extensions to language tools."

SO maybe in the desktop world it seemed safe to build bloatware solutions and say things like "Memory is cheap" and "Processing power increases exponentially."

But face it, "Three screens and a cloud" didn't really just suddenly spring up out of nowhere. Mobile computing was all very much on the minds of computer scientists well before the invention of the World Wide Web.

The lack of a formal "Computer Science" profession has created a situation in which corporations have dominated the conversation about things that no one can understand out of the mouths of "true geeks." This has given the world Marketecture, instead of Architecture.

At this point, Microsoft realizes that it has no choice. The cloud and web based services are the wave of the future and there are many great Open Source, standards based, FREE alternatives that are much more browser and platform neutral.

Maybe someday, I'll build a phone application using Silverlight, but that is only if:

a) It provides a way to write single source that can work on ALL major flavors of smartphones


b) No one else has provided such a development solution and I am desperate to target a Silverlight platform in which it would be the best of the available options.

I am a Google Fan Girl married to an Apple Fan Boy, running a Windows-only home network so we can't currently write apps for our 2 iPhones. This is SO WRONG!


Dan Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm completely fine with Silverlight being used for Apps. "Dead" is a semantic in this case. I believe Bob when he says there's going to be another version of it. But then, I also believed Microsoft's executives when they said SL would be cross-platform well beyond Windows when it was introduced at Mix as WPF/E.

How does Silverlight differentiate itself from other app frameworks? No one will argue that the development tools for Silverlight are far superior to flash, but.. a lot of good that does if you can't reach the same audience that flash does.

How far out of the Microsoft eco system will Silverlight venture? Symbian? That's on the way out in favor of Meego. My questions about Silverlight on Meego over at their forum were met with silence and the usual hate-speak around Moonlight/Mono.

Mac? Mac != iOS. At least not yet. What happens when OSX and iOS merge?

When this occurs, surely the same developer restrictions will exist on Mac that exist on the phone/pad today. Apple just announced an App store for the next version of OSX. It's clearly a sign that the wheels are in motion for closing the OSX platform as well.

Moonlight doesn't count because it's behind and Microsoft's support of it seems reluctant and mired in keeping Novell at arms length.


Dan Wygant Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Rock, Shawn. I almost 100% agree.
I am still pissed that the last umpteen years I've been in the MS camp helping them pursue world domination. Nothing wrong with that as long as we have SOMETHING going forward in support of C# and C++ as honest to goodness real certifiable languages!

What I will be interested to see is how we're replacing the .NET platform as our "MS Legend" friend Juval Lowy warned about. He tells on the Dot-Net-Rocks of the history-past leading to the future-history (is that Jack Kerouac, Veterans of Future Wars?).

What he's told me face-to-face is that all you've heard is true and that he didn't say it. And that there are plans to replace the entire .NET managed code phenom. I spoke to SB and he confirmed with a reply from his WP7 phone:
"We love c++and c# and will support for sure"

To me this means there is a HUGE plan in the works, that they have developed a prototype to move even FURTHER than managed C++ and C#, supporting the entire sort of stuff we do today, but in a new and (most likely if they fully bake it this time) wonderful way.

BTW, my bet is once SG returns from paternity leave the end of Nov (by god he deserves a break!) we will stop pondering the now obvious and begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

My suggestion:
ever dang one uv us, take 3 weeks off for once in our insanely dedicated code-life, spend time with family and friends, and await the aliens arriving in Dec who will give us a new set of Best Practices for the VFW coding framework. (VFW=>Veterans of Future Wars)

Really, take a breath, wait and see. It _will_ be good, but ScottGu needs a breath too. I'd bet a nickel you would enjoy a nice calm lead up to Turkeyday and beyond towards Pearl Harbor Day.

Dan "Silverlight Man coding CLR3.5 these days" Wygant

PS - as a hint, look at the Emotiv brain cap
(we should allow handicapped people to code with brain power, true?)


Doctor G. Wednesday, November 3, 2010

IMHO I think the issue is this: Imagine your are Telerik or Infragistics, and you have just hear that an MS VP state that Silverlight is still alive, but it is the no longer choice for the WIDEST deployment of RIA apps. That means the huge investment (marketing, engineering, sales, etc.) I just put into my Silverlight Controls is now for a niche market that is Microsoft only (don't tell me that Silverlight 1.0 on Apple or Moonlight are real choices).

Even those of us who are individual developers were counting on the widest market for our work. Right now, that ground is being ceded to Adobe Air [Android, Mac, PC, etc.) (and I used to be a Adobe MVP in Flash :-( and I decided to invest in Silverlight skills).

I think this is the pain. I can no longer say that my products are really going to be write once, run anywhere. That space for Microsoft tools is the currently vaporware HTML5.

Does that clarify why this is such an outcry about the decision?


Dan Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Look up the quirks associated with HTML5. Every target still has a path of exception for something.

Code-once-deploy-many solution is a pipedream without a widely obtainable baseline. Not only in code, but in performance and usability. This ideal simply doesn't exist across the board.

Reading what you have said about "computer science" and acadamia.. What's the old adage? Those that can't do, teach?

Saying that there is a lack of "formal computer science" in corporate/consumer-funded companies (Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.).. is insulting at best. I've met some engineers at Microsoft. Their level of knowledge is humbling, and they are easily more on the pulse of computer science than ANYONE in acadamia that I've encountered.

Microsoft, Google, Apple.. None are perfect. But they all have a very talented bunch of people.

The problem in these situations is finding that person who's brilliant AND knows how to play the corporate games to their favor.

I see what you're saying. But I think it over-simplifies the problem. Not all proprietary frameworks are evil. In fact, many "free" implementations are indirectly based on the work of these closed source works. All of these approaches feed off one another. Its very symbiotic.


Anders Tornblad Friday, December 10, 2010

I mostly agree with you. Silverlight is a really good framework for rich Web Apps, but both Silverlight and Flash are over-used, in my opinion. Most Silverlight and Flash solutions should be web standards-based.

I'm actually experimenting with creating an HTML5 replica of a Silverlight-based UI on my blog. Check it out. :)


Christoph Saturday, January 1, 2011

...Silverlight is good for Apps; HTML is good for sites.
That's the point, Shawn.

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