Microsoft Silverlight.

July 16, 2008

Microsoft Silverlight is a cross browser implementation of the .Net Framework that delivers interactive applications via the web. It does so by unifying the capabilities of the web server, the web browser and the desktop.

Silverlight improves the potential for developers and web designer to create rich applications that aren’t limited by the constraints of modern web browsers.

Silverlight runs on all major browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari and also has the ability to adapt its video quality depending on what device it runs on e.g. desktop browser, mobile device, or 720p HDTV video mode.

Silverlight application can be created by a graphic designer or a web developer using either:

  • Microsoft Extended Blend – for layout and graphic design
  • Visual Studio .Net – for coding


There are currently two versions of Silverlight, 1.0 and 2.0 beta. The most noticeable difference between the two versions is Silverlight 2.0’s support for the .Net Framework.

Silverlight includes Windows Presentation Foundation which is new to .Net 3.0 and is designed to allow rich client features by extending browser based user interfaces beyond what is capable with HTML alone. It also provides a declarative mark-up language known as XAML (Extensible Application Mark-up Language; pronounced “zammel”) as well as adding extensions to JavaScript so that the client UI elements can be manipulated programmatically using event handlers.

Silverlight 2.0 is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing JavaScript and ASP .NET AJAX code and goes one step further by making it possible to create applications using VB .NET and C# due to its ability to access the .NET Frameworks programming model.

To run Silverlight applications all you need is a modern browser and the Silverlight plug-in, which can be downloaded and installed in minutes.

Silverlight XAML syntax is very similar to HTML as it allows you create rich web based UIs in HTML like syntax. Using Microsoft Extended Blend (MEB) designers can create engaging graphics, animation and media. MEB can generate XAML so that (via Visual Studio .Net) programmers and designer can collaborate and work on the same files.

XAML is to Silverlight what HTML is to web pages. It is text based and can be incorporated directly into a web page via the Silverlight runtime. It is used to define objects and their properties and focuses on defining UIs. XAML is firewall friendly unlike other technologies like Java Applets, Active X or Flash, (which all send binary content to the browser) which can pose security risks and is also easier to updates due to its text-based nature, unlike its rivals, (mentioned above) which have to be recompiled and redeployed after every change. Each time a Silverlight application is updated a new XAML file is generated that will be automatically downloaded the next time a client request is made. This eliminates the need for re-installation or redeployment and prevents the user experience from being disrupted.

Silverlight has a long way before it can compete with flash’s popularity, especially as it is a Microsoft only product. It has a huge amount of potential as it is designed to work with the .Net framework, which is a robust and proven foundation. Only time will tell as to how popular it will become and whether users and developers will jump on the Silverlight express!!