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In Flash-HTML5 Battle, Silverlight Is the Big Loser

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With the introduction of the iPad, a lot has been made about the future of HTML5 — and just as much ink has been spilled on whether or not its adoption means that Adobe’s (s ADBE) Flash is dead. But what about that other rich Internet application platform — you know, the one that was built and (until recently) backed by Microsoft? (s MSFT)

While Apple (s AAPL) and Adobe bicker over whether HTML5 or Flash is the best platform for delivery of video, games and other interactive applications, Silverlight gets nary a mention — even from its own team. And Microsoft itself has increasingly moved to HTML5 for new interactive applications in its products.

Earlier this week, Microsoft showed off the latest version of Internet Explorer 9 — and its use of HTML5 and web standards for interactive applications was a big part of the story. In fact, Microsoft will be leveraging HTML5 for the latest version of its Bing search engine, and using the new web standard for interactive, moving backgrounds.

It’s not just in its browser and search properties that Microsoft is opening up to HTML5; Microsoft also conceded to making the web standard available for video delivered to its Xbox 360 gaming console, in an effort to ease the trouble content companies had in bringing live streaming to the platform. Microsoft previously required content providers to use its proprietary Smooth Streaming technology for video delivery, but now will allow ESPN3 and others to stream using HTML5.

Eighteen months ago, Silverlight seemed like a viable alternative to Flash for video delivery, interactive pages and enterprise applications. In fact, Microsoft was way ahead of Adobe by adding many video-related features to its plugin — like support for H.264, HTTP and adaptive bit rate streaming, all of which were introduced to Flash 12-18 months after they were available through Silverlight.

But things got all wonky with the introduction of the iPad and Steve Jobs’ insistence that the tablet support video and interactive applications through web standards like HTML5 rather than through plugins like Flash or Silverlight. Now the choice for developers is not necessarily between Flash and Silverlight but between Flash and HTML5.

Microsoft says it is still developing the Silverlight technology, and Silverlight will be a key part of delivering interactive apps on Windows Phone 7 mobile devices. But outside of its mobile platform — which, let’s face it, can’t compete with Apple iOS or Android devices — Microsoft seems to be abandoning Silverlight in lieu of HTML5.

For Microsoft the embrace of open standards may be surprising, especially in light of its history in pushing proprietary technology instead. But in doing so, it’s leaving Silverlight in the dust.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps (subscription required)

21 Responses to “In Flash-HTML5 Battle, Silverlight Is the Big Loser”

  1. It seems to me that HTML5 is only about the tag. Silverlight and Flash offer much more in terms of a richer UI than HTML/Javascript/CSS can ever offer. Non-developers are always equating Flash and Silverlight with media delivery only. There’s much more there.

  2. I noticed some of the discussion here…

    And I say, let the plugins die. :-)

    I mean it, the web as is changing right now, it doesn’t need flash or silverlight. Plugins as just a fallback mechanism, they’ve never been a first class citizen and they never will be. Mobile is coming and every website is going to want to adapt to that.

    There are many, many more mobiles in the world then there are desktops. And many, many more sold each day and each year. They are all gonna get connected to the internet.

    People in India, China, Africa, they may not have much, but they all have a mobile phone. A lot of these people don’t have a landline at home, they don’t even have television, but they do have a mobile phone.

    For example the rise of things like Twitter is only going to increase. Because Twitter isn’t just a website, it’s a mobile website (or app if you like).

    The web is coming to your TV, game-system, etc. if it isn’t already. Small screens, large screens, no effects, really fancy effects, it can all be done with the same code.

    HTML websites can very easily adapt to the different environments:

    Have a look at what is possible with HTML5 (there are many parts to this video):

    Javascript is moving to the server again as well:

    If you don’t adapt, you lose.

    All these developers of the mobile apps, where all wrong and were not thinking, they will not be able to adapt when a new phone system comes out. They have to port their application to an other language, that is just dumb.

    Why not have a appstore application when is mostly HTML, JS, CSS:

    Flash video, will die. Flash games, will die as well.

    Why wait for Adobe or Microsoft to make a player available for a new phone when it comes out, when you can just use HTML, JS, CSS.

    PS Sorry for my broken english, but it’s not my first language.

    PPS Sorry if I double posted.

  3. H.264 was availble in Flash Player 9, Update 3 in December 2007 (beta released in August 2007) while Silverlight had H.264 support in version 3 in July 2009 (beta released in March 2009). So Silverlight wasn’t always leading in video support and sometimes followed up what Adobe did in Flash. Basically any new video features, the opposing company would add it to their next major release.

    While Silverlight hasn’t completely died yet, there’s yet to be a Silverlight mobile. Silverlight as platform to create mobile apps for Windows Phone 7, but no actual mobile player yet. This is an area where Silverlight is taking a beating.

  4. The best thing that Microsoft can do (but most likely will not) is to open source Silverlight

    Silverlight has all the tech manna of Flash
    Flash has all the market and the mega $$$
    What the world wants is HTML5 and great (= Adobe like) tools.

    If Microsoft open sourced Silverlight, then
    * They earn goodwill like never before
    * They earn developers
    * They probably earn market share for IE
    * The guys at Adobe will start preparing their resumes
    * Steve Jobs will have one less bag of hurt

    But the other Steve will get a new one…so this is not likely to happen :-(

    • Open-sourcing Silverlight won’t help. The problem is the .net runtime which is poorly supported outside windows and pretty much inexistent in most of the mobile market.

      HTML5/CSS/JS(let’s call it DHTML5) isn’t as productive as Silverlight and Flash, I know quite well that. What people don’t factor in is the mobile platform is already a first-class citizen in the web. Most of the time, developing two sites, one for desktop in whatever RIA one for mobile in DHTML5 is much harder to maintain and two times more expensive than developing one DHTML5 that can scale to both desktop and mobile usage(you just need the proper frameworks, tools and talent).

  5. Funny how many people here argue in support of Silverlight, but fail to see how this is not supporting it at all.

    Silverlight is everything people here say: much easier for developers to learn and use, more powerful now and advancing faster than HTML. Therefore, the thinking seems to be, it is a winner.

    Unfortunately, MS seems to have second thoughts here. @MossyBlog is not just some random twitter user, he has made a very convincing case, partly by drawing a very lively picture of the politics going on inside MS. BillG calling Silverlight the “fuck you windows product” is not beyond anyone to imagine, I think (remember what he said about WebDAV, BTW?)

    If MS goes all-in on HTML tomorrow, developers will leave Silverlight in droves. And than, hotfix-supported as it may still be, it won’t be a platform anyone want’s to bet their future on anymore. Anything with a lifespan beyond a year will switch over to HTML, and the W3C thinking will win: end of competition, end of innovation for anything in the UI space. (In fact, a major leap back from now.)

    I don’t want to go there, @MossyBlog doesn’t, and it’s time that everyone who likes to code in Silverlight opens their eyes and at least considers the possibility that this is actually happening. So go ahead and defend Silverlight, but don’t defend MS’s politics. Push back, tell them what you want.

    • Developers will not leave Silverlight in droves for the same reason that they never switched to HTML in the first place. Many of the devs who are using Silverlight are using it precisely because it’s not the horrible mess known as HTML/CSS/JS.

      Furhtermore, the tech is already out there and it’s here to stay. Just like ActiveX, a technology that many decry as “dead”. Many developers have and still do use ActiveX whether they realize it or not.

  6. Jason Suess

    Plenty has already been said about the false statement that Silverlight is dead, but there’s one other important issue from the post that needs to be addressed. Xbox is not using HTML5 for its ESPN3 UI or video delivery, they are using Apple’s HTTP adaptive bit rate format for the video stream delivery, I think that’s what has been incorrectly called HTML5 in the post. While the HTML5 spec covers video display through the tag it does not cover HTTP adaptive bit rate video delivery formats so it’s incorrect to call any format “HTML5”. However that said there is positive action happening on the standardization front, the Smooth Streaming format (which is built around PIFF) has been submitted to MPEG and we are actively working with Apple and others on standardizing HTTP adaptive bit rate delivery, which will benefit us all.

    • Hi Jason, we were talking with Chris Carper at the last IBC, but I need to understand now your post. so here my q

      1 which is the main rational for the Xbox dev team to have chosen Apple adaptive streaming and not Smooth? Besides of that I pretty sure that playready DRM is not working on top of Apple adaptive streaming, I’m wrong?

      2 I think that Samnsung TVs / roku player support Apple Adaptive Streaming right away, but not so sure about Smooth. So if you are a content provider,or -better for the question- a CDN provider, if your delivery servers support just smooth you can o you cannot deliver streaming services to Apple Adaptive Streaming Devices?

      Best, Martin

  7. How do I get a job as a tech writer on one of the plethora of sites sprouting unfounded speculation and regurgitating drivel from Twitter? I’m pretty good at making things up.

    Please contact me if you have any openings.

    The benefit of hiring me is that I have actually used these technologies, and therefore have the awareness that they all have different use-cases :

    Flash : good for RIA / advertising / games due to ubiquity of the plugin. Not so good for serious web applications due to lack of integration with good backend technologies.

    Html5 : good for standards based public websites where the greatest reach is important. Can do some cool stuff, but to go beyond a certain level and match flash/SL will require some seriously ugly javascript. Further, any really cool work will be dead easy to rip off, where as flash/sl aren’t so easy to duplicate.

    Silverlight: bad for standards based web, and lacks ubiquity, but great for serious web applications due to quality tooling and integration with Microsoft’s back-end stack.

  8. Jose Fajardo

    Point 1 : XP wont be getting IE9 and XP > 60% across total desktops…

    Point 2 : HTML5 > 3+ years to reach Silverlights install base (60% +). And im guessing it will take HTML5 >5 years to come close to flashs ubiquity

    Point 3 : Not all implementations of HTML5 will be equal, IE9’s will be different to FF’s/Chromes/Operas. One only needs to look at how each are implementing Hardware accelleration!

    Point 4 : HTML5 won’t have the majority of designers on board that will drive the truely rich experiences. They know that Silverlight/WPF/Flash/Flex is where the experience is at! At best you’ll get cute HTML5 apps the best will be reserved for SL/FL

    Point 5 : Tooling will kill any chance of large scale successfull RICH HTML5 apps. There’s so much a developer can do, and asking them to do animations/3D/high end Graphics is asking them for too much

    No there is no way HTML5 will kill Flash/Silverlight!!!

  9. This is click bate.

    It is quite amusing to see all these Media writers write about these technologies when they have no idea what they are talking about. And choose to believe the propaganda coming from whomever they are in bed with.

    Silverlight is a fantastic technology and nothing will stop it from moving forward. So is Flash. HTML5, is a nice technology by committee that will be usable but always the true developers, “Oh if I have to” choice.

    Lets put it in something simple that you Bloggers can understand…

    If free is so good and it should blow away all other competition, then why is Linux not the dominant OS platform???

    Well, for similar reasons, the above NOT happening is mirrored for exactly why HTML5 will also be as dominant as you guys like to point out to us.

    Single vision implementation has big pluses.

    Flash/Flex platform is good, but reasonably old so has quite a bit of baggage.
    Silverlight is the newest and he less baggage and the most modern implementation, taking advantage of all the learning from past technologies like Flash/HTML/SVG. It also does not have to cater for backward comparability. (The biggest issue with Flash and why it is most likely not as stable as we would like)

    HTML5, made up of a gupe of CSS, Javascript, SVG, etc….
    Ok, it technically can do the job but its a dogs breakfast of technology whose purposes are wide and overly complicated.

    HTML5, is a solution, but not the elegant, fast, cheap solution. And at the end of they day, Money decides, not idealistic morons or Industry promoters.

    Still, Video wise, for non premium content, it will rule.

    But for real applications developers doing specific apps for specific reasons, HTML5 will loose. It simply is not cost effective.

    • I truly believe in FREE! ( I meet Chris Anderson last month btw, I started to read about 10 years ago also)

      but this statement :
      “If free is so good and it should blow away all other competition, then why is Linux not the dominant OS platform??? ”

      If you take on the http server arena, no doub Apache hit the mark, and if take the very important mobile OS Arena, I think Android (based on Linux OS) hit the mark and will left the other behind… so your point is not so for real.

    • I truly believe in FREE! ( I met Chris Anderson last month btw, and I started to read about the issue more than 10 years ago also)

      but this statement :
      “If free is so good and it should blow away all other competition, then why is Linux not the dominant OS platform??? ”

      If you take on the http server arena, no doub Apache hit the mark, and if take the very important mobile OS Arena, I think Android (based on Linux OS) hit the mark and will left the other behind… so your point is not so for real.

  10. This article reminds me of the reporting from the students writing the local college newspaper… poorly written, and not backed up with actual facts. This is just an opinion piece trying to pass for news. If you’re going to make statements like they are fact, back it up. I’m willing to be the author has not actually written apps in any of these technologies. I have/do and SL kicks HTML5 and Flash both to the curb in so many ways it’s not funny.

  11. Ned Nedson

    I find it amusing that so many people are rushing to declare Siliverlight is dead. You say Microsoft “seems” to be abandoning it while Scott Guthrie says they “have 200+ engineers right now working on upcoming releases of SL and WPF – which is a heck of a lot”. Sure HTML5 is going to be wonderful some day but I wonder exactly when we will be able to develop a web application using HTML5 and Javascript as easily as we can develop one in Silverlight? I’m not going to hold my breath for that.

    I haven’t used Flash for Rich Internet Applications but I have developed Silverlight sites and I can say that with the release of Silverlight 4 we can now pretty much do everything you might want in a web application.

    I’m hoping Microsoft will continue to make sure Silverlight provides cross-platform support. If Microsoft can target the Android operating system with Silverlight then there would be a real strong incentive to use it.