Future of Silverlight 5 and HTML 5 – what now?

Dear visitor: Please keep in mind that this post is originally from Vibor Cipan's personal blog, the name of which we eventually adopted as our company name together with its conveniently-named URL. We're keeping the posts on our official company blog for all the subscribers to Vibor's blog who have read and commented on his previous posts. Please be aware that this post represents Vibor's personal thinking few years ago and doesn't necessarily represent the opinions of the UX Passion as a company today. 

You’ve all heard the news – Microsoft is “shifting its Silverlight strategy” and going fully forward to embrace HTML 5 as its cross-browser cross-platform solution. Coupled with IE9, it makes a lot of sense. But what about Silverlight 5 and Silverlight in general now? The same question can be asked regarding Adobe’s Flash.

PDC 2010, HTML 5 and Bob Muglia

If you’ve got the chance to look at Microsoft’s PDC conference (especially the Keynote) with Steve Ballmer and Bob Muglia – you could hear HTML 5, HTML 5, HTML 5. Though, this time Steve has spared us from his monkey dance (remember “Developers, developers, developers!” chant?) – he was damn close to start chanting about HTML 5. Yup – you heard it well – HTML 5. Not a single relevant word about Silverlight 5.

Several weeks ago I was talking to several Microsoft employees who were discussing Silverlight 4.5 and Silverlight 5 and possible announcements of those on the PDC. Following the Microsoft tradition, I was also waiting for an announcement regarding Silverlight 5.

Today I know that those Microsoft employees were just speculating without knowing any real facts. Being bound by NDAs I have with Microsoft, I was keeping my mouth shut. Today, it’s clear – Microsoft is shifting its strategy towards HTML 5 for web solutions.

In the interview with Bob Muglia (you can read it here) – you can clearly see the following statements:

  • “Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone.”
  • “Silverlight also has some “sweet spots” in media and line-of-business applications.”
  • “When it comes to touting Silverlight as Microsoft’s vehicle for delivering a cross-platform runtime, our strategy has shifted.”
  • “Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward.”
  • “But HTML is the only true cross-platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform.”

So, is Silverlight dead?

I don’t think so. Silverlight will be around for years to come. Even Muglia sees it as the choice for the Windows Phone platform, and from my experience in the field I can say that it will continue to be an excellent solution for numerous intranet apps and solutions.

At this moment, my company, UX Passion, is involved in building and designing 4 different large-scale Silverlight-based projects, not counting the ones for Windows Phone 7. Our Wall of Tweets product is nearing its second release and it’s being built with Silverlight as well – but no one can ignore the broad support that HTML 5 is receiving from Apple, Google… and now – Microsoft itself.

Truth be told, one of the HTML 5 / IE9 projects we are working on at the moment is for Microsoft itself – clearly, that’s just one small sign of many currently visible ones, plotting the direction Microsoft and other vendors are taking.

Keeping the promise of a native, accelerated, same-markup, rich platform – HTML 5 is the future of the web for the most part.

I hope you are not surprised by Microsoft’s move. If you are – then you should be worried. But forget that and embrace HTML 5. Now!

Almost 7 months ago my team and I decided to jump on the HTML 5 bandwagon while also working, investing and developing on the Silverlight platform (as well as on other platforms we consider to be relevant for our customers). Today – I can say it was a great choice and a strategy that has positioned us well for the future. Heck, we’ve contracted with a HTML 5 guy here in Croatia to help us out and we are looking forward to expanding that part of our operations. It’s just the business reality here. No personal feelings whatsoever.

Will there be a new version of Silverlight? Silverlight 5?

If we are to trust Bob Muglia then the answers is yes. Although, I’m guessing, it won’t be before Microsoft’s MIX 2011 conference. As Muglia said himself – “As with anything as it matures, the (delivery) cadence changes”.

A couple of days ago I had an interesting discussion (on Twitter) with Goran Peuc from Nivas, one of the leading Croatian web-design agencies, about HTML 5, Silverlight and Flash. Goran made an interesting point saying that Silverlight (and RIA frameworks in general) should position themselves in the game arena – something that HTML 5 won’t be able to do anytime soon (if ever). Now, with Silverlight positioned as a platform for the Windows Phone, this certainly marks the direction in which we can expect Silverlight / Flash to move.

So, it’s HTML 5 then?

If I have to choose between Yes or No – it would be Yes. If I may explain further I’d say: Yes, BUT…

It’s important to understand that HTML 5 does not exclude Silverlight or Flash by default. However, it certainly brings a whole lot of those features to the native web, to the browser itself. As Goran said, HTML 5 is scaffolding combining JS and CSS 3 to work in unison. Many common scenarios will be now supported by HTML 5 by default. For many others we will still need Silverlight / Flash. In the end – you will be the one making the final call, but now there are many more variables involved.

But the world of UI / UX / RIA has changed (and will continue to do so), and you’d do well to be aware of those changes and be sure to embrace them.

Given this news, obviously, you can expect more and more HTML 5 topics to appear on the UXPassion.com blog – I believe that those helping you make transition from Silverlight to HTML 5 will be interesting to you and I’ll make sure I cover those.

However, Silverlight will be here for years to come, with at least one more significant release (Silverlight 5?) and will be focused on Phone and intranet projects. For the rest – explore HTML 5!

Let’s keep in touch – You should follow me on Twitter now!

Comments (15)

  1. I’ll try to keep this short.

    Not every technology is suitable for every job. Just because you can create graphics with pure HTML & CSS, it doesn’t that we will never again use png and gif images on websites.

    It’s the same with Silverlight, Flash, HTML5, and any other new technology that might become popular one day. Everything has weak and strong sides. Focus on strong ones and forget about weak ones. At least that’s the way I see things.

    • That is true, but also it is business reality that more and more things will now be possible with HTML5 that were earlier only possible with Silverlight or Flash. Microsoft is not really ditching Silverlight, but it’s giving more focus on HTML5 since it believes (and not only Microsoft) that that is only real, true, multi-platform, multi-browser, multi-device technology.

      So, if I need video now – I’ll use HTML5, if I need animations – I’ll use Canvas + SVG, if I need audio – again, HTML5. However, if I need data-binding and some heavy duty LOB scenarios, I’ll use Silverlight. It’s the audience and specific business case that matters, but the fact that there IS omnipresent shift towards HTML5 – simply can’t be ignored by anyone.

      • Well, that was more or less my whole point. New technologies come and go. Old ones might lose its purpose in some fields, but they might still stay useful in others. Instead of Silverlight trying to be omnipresent, it will fill gaps which can’t be filled with HTML5.

        Microsoft obviously realized that it makes no sense to push SL to web (a least not for every purpose), so they’ll probably concentrate on Windows phone and maybe something other they find interesting. I find this decision to be wise.

  2. How quickly tunes can change. Earlier this year at a keynote for the ASP.NET DevConnections conference, Muglia was pronouncing: Bet the farm on Silverlight.

    • Yes, and year ago, at the very same PDC (2009), Ozzie and Muglia were pushing Silverlight as a standard (they hoped for that) – and now here is Ozzie’s “New dawn is here” memo: http://ozzie.net/docs/dawn-of-a-new-day/ – things are changing, for sure!

  3. From my day-to-day business contacts with developers in other IT companies, I see big movements toward adoption of Silverlight for client-server (smartclient) applications. When speaking about HTML5 vs Silverlight, I think it’s important to specify purpose, type of application and targeted audience, or else we’re talking about apples and oranges.
    There’s no one platform that will ‘rule them all’, rather one big general purpose (html5), and several other, smaller and specialized (Silverlight, Flex, Flash,…, for games, business intranet apps, etc)

    • Well said – but the point here is the fact that Microsoft has now stopped pushing Silverlight as their de-facto-wannabe standard for all things web / RIA. Remember the last PDC 2009? Ozzie and Muglia? Silverlight as standard? Not anymore!

    • Well said, sir!

  4. Silverlight is just a plug-in. Native to Windows, rare on MAC.

    HTML5, once older browsers are obsolete, will be used widely. I am learning much of it now.

  5. HTML5… As always when something is new this is “best”… I’m using Silverlight because I left ASP.NET. And I left ASP.NET because of HTML/CSS/JavaScript.
    Any serious developer knowing the beauty of C#, .NET framework, vectorial drawing, will NEVER come back to HTML and JavaScript.
    Even with new features, HTML 5 bring us 20 years backward. JavaScript is not a serious language, CSS is a mess, HTML layout is for dummies.
    I can’t believe any serious professional guy will switch to HTML5 and restart to do the same job that in the 80′s !
    HTML can evolve, there will be a HTML 6, 7 or 10 perhaps, because it is the base of all Web page, a kind of standard container.
    But Why Flash is existing since a long time ? Why all good looking Web sites were (and are still) done in Flash while HTML 4 + Ajax was already there ? The proof HTML5 will not do the job is here… else Flash should not have been there for years !
    HTML4+Ajax do not stop the rise of Flash, will HTML5 stop Flash _and_ Silverlight ? I’m seriously doubting of such a future.
    Dummies who are programming in php will certainly love HTML5. But serious developers having to code something a bit more complex than a add banner will still have the need for true and professional environment that can be linked to the code writen in the their company. Only the .NET plateform is offering a so wide range of services. Silverlight is a part of this big framework. and .NET is a long time strategy for MS.
    I just thing that beside this reality, MS must says the words taht will please dummies because MS is also a company like others that needs to appear “smart” and modern… Currently saying “HTML5″ in a sentence is making you smarter. In 6 months another word, another “new concept” will replace it. Using the world “HTML5″ in one year will make you as stupid as speaking about Cobol today.
    Let the fashion victims speaking… and long live to .NET Framework and Silverlight !

    • OK, if you click around the bwsroer area and see no silverlight menu .. means your Silvelight app wasn’t loaded. Are you using Chrome by any chance? I remeber having this issue with Chrome for some reason v 2.0 of silverlight runtime doesn’t load properly with Chrome. When your Visual Studio generates the test page can you open your silverlight app from this test page?

  6. You’re forgetting deployment. Silverlight is already on about 70% of the world’s internet browsers whereas Flash is on about 98%.

    HTML5 browsers aren’t so common and won’t be for a long time. Consider how many people are still on Windows XP and IE6/7/8 and how often “real people” upgrade their browsers.

    Sites will increasingly have to tell people to upgrade their browser but it will be a long time before we get to HTML5 being prevalent.

  7. HTML5 is joke.
    Do you really thinkt that JavaScript is comparable with object-oriented languages like C#?
    HTML5 have only good presentation layer but without true object-oriented language it cant be revolution on web.

  8. HTML 5 is not even out yet and still as of this writing more than a year away from release. Meanwhile, Silverlight will release its 5th version in the next few months. It’s non-sensical for people to think that it make sense to jump on HTML5 the first day or year in leiu of SL or other more mature RIA platforms. IMO, it will just be another option for developing RIA apps which makes it about preference and level of expertise.

    Of course with all of the Microsoft haters, it means the end of SL but Microsoft has never backed out of any war and I don’t expect they will this one either, given the amount of money they spent on R&D and basically writing one of the flagship products in Sharepoint based on the SL framework.

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