Silverlight, the Microsoft RIA, Keynote at the W3Québec meetup

This monday, my friend at the W3Qc association, Benoit Piette invited Laurent Duveau from the GUVSM to give a keynote about the Microsoft Rich Internet Application product; Silverlight.

Here’s my little recap of the entire keynote

Silverlight is a RIA brought by Microsoft. It’s a plugin, like Flash that users can install in their browser. However it’s still a beta, version 2 will be release in 2008 and a mobile version is under development. The current beta, version 2 beta came out in April 2008.

How Silverlight work

Silverlight use the .Net framework ACL directly inside the browser client. This way .Net programmers can use the languages they are already use to, #C, VB, Ruby, etc. The user on his side just receive Html/JavaScript the same way JSP technology works.

Silverlight use the XAML a declarative XML based language by Microsoft. About the accessibility, Silverlight can tell screen readers the site architecture. For SEO purposes, Silverlight follow the same rules as Flash and use progressive enhancement for the end users. We can think that somehow Google can crawl the XML content underneath the Silverlight application. Like Flash, Silverlight can offer an alternate HTML version for screen readers and search engines.

Many features already in Flash

  • browser plug-in
  • cross browser and cross platform

Useful features of Silverlight 2

  • complete DOM access
  • all the code managed with the CLR .Net
  • networking : SOAP, REST, RSS
  • built-in controls, textbox, calendar, date picker, etc
  • light plug-in of 4.3 MB

Silverlight or Ajax

  • ajax is and will be valid
  • ajax offer less rich user experience than Silverlight
  • Silverlight can be integrated in current ajax applications

Silverlight or Flex

  • Silverlight and flex are both using a virtual machine
  • actionScript versus .Net code
  • flex builder the IDE built on Eclipse and Visual Studio for Silverlight

Open-source Implementation

There’s an upcoming Open-source implementation of the Microsoft Silverlight runtime under development, Moonlight by the Mono team.

Personal thought

Microsoft seem to have done a pretty good job with Silverlight, a few years late on Adobe tho. For me it can be useful for .Net programmers to do web application. For sure, it’s not perfect, it wont replace Html, especially with the Html 5 version coming in the next few years. However Silverlight can gain major ground for intranet applications where you have a complete control over the end users.

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