Microsoft Silverlight was a tool for running rich web applications (once upon a time sadly), similar to Adobe Flash in this modern era. It is currently discontinued. It was one of those ambitious projects which never took flight. What is Microsoft Silverlight? What were its features? What leads to its dramatic downfall? Moreover, what are the business lessons we as young entrepreneurs have to learn from the case study of this fallen giant which had promised so much but delivered so less?
Microsoft Silverlight is a web browser plugin that enables interactive media experiences, rich business applications, and also immersive mobile apps. It was available for free. Silverlight is a powerful development tool that aimed to improve web content and take your overall internet experience to a next level for web browsers (by web developers) and mobile applications (for your mobile devices) with its features. Silverlight is a free plug-in compatible with multiple web browsers, devices, and operating systems, bringing a new level of interactivity wherever the web works.
History of Microsoft Silverlight
Microsoft Silverlight was initially launched in the year 2007. Ever since its launch, it was compared to Adobe’s Flash. It was actively developed and run by Microsoft from 2007 to 2012. Silverlight majorly has developed 5 versions during its active time. They were: Silverlight 1, Silverlight 2, Silverlight 3, Silverlight 4, and Silverlight 5.
Silverlight 1 was the first version released by Microsoft. It was developed under the codename Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E) and released in the year 2007. This version consists of the core presentation framework, which is responsible for the User Interface, interactivity, and user input. Also the basic UI controls, graphics, and animation including media playback, digital rights management (DRM), and DOM integration.
Silverlight 2 is the second version released by Microsoft. When it was released, it used to be referred to as version 1.1. It also includes a version of the .NET Framework, implementing the same full Common Language Runtime (CLR) version as .NET Framework 3.0, so that it can execute programs written in any .NET language.
The XAML layout markup file (.xaml file) can be augmented by code-behind code (which contains the programming logic), written in any .NET language. It can also be used to manipulate both the Silverlight application and the HTML page which hosts the Silverlight control by using programming. The XAML markup and the code which is compiled into CLI assemblies and then compressed using ZIP and then stored in a .xap file.
Silverlight 3 was the third version released by Microsoft and it was announced at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) 2008 show in Amsterdam on September 12, 2008. It was unveiled in Las Vegas on March 18, 2009. A beta version was also made available for download the same day. On July 9th of 2009, the final version was released.
The number of controls increased in Silverlight 3 including DataGrid, Tree View, and many other layout panels, Data Form for forms-driven applications, and Data Pager for viewing paginated data. Silverlight 3 also includes a navigation framework to let Silverlight applications use the hyperlinked navigation model and also enable deep-linking (linking directly to specific pages) within Silverlight applications.
A beta version of Silverlight 4 was released On November 18, 2009, at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles by the Microsoft Company. On April 15th of 2010, the final version was released.
Silverlight 4 included features like enhanced data binding support, enhanced animation effects, webcam, and microphone support, printing support, improved mouse support including right button support and mouse wheel support, and new and enhanced controls such as a Rich Text Box and an enhanced DataGrid control, New support for implicit theming of controls, Clipboard and drag and drop support, Deep Zoom performance enhancements, and many more.
Silverlight 5 Beta
At the Silverlight Firestarter event, on December 2, 2010, Silverlight 5 beta was announced for release in the 1st half of 2011. The final version was announced and released later. This new and final version included features like built-in 3D graphics support, variable speed playback of media content with automatic audio pitch correction, built-in remote-control support, improved power awareness, WCF RIA Services improvements including complex type support, and better MVVM support.
Overview of Silverlight:
Silverlight is used for applications that run in the browser like normal web applications, but which try to advance the user interface beyond HTML.
Platforms and Browsers
All the supported platforms and major browsers which can utilize the services of Silverlight are as follows −
Silverlight supports Windows operating system. It requires Windows XP Service Pack 2 at least or the recent versions of Windows. Silverlight will not run at all on Windows ME, and Windows 2000 has limited support (the older versions are not fully supported). As for the browsers, Silverlight supports Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer, of course, and it supports Firefox, and Google Chrome version 4.
Silverlight supports almost all the common web browser plug-in APIs. It works in a wider range of browsers (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox)than the officially supported list.
Silverlight supports Mac OS10 (but Silverlight version 2 or higher only runs on Intel-based Macs). On modern Macs, both Firefox and Safari are supported.
Silverlight plug-in is not compatible with Linux, but the Mono open source project has an offshoot called Moonlight. It is a Silverlight-compatible plug-in that works in Linux. Moonlight runs in Firefox, and has always been able to run in Standalone mode. They thought Silverlight would be a useful technology for building user interface widgets that run on the desktop so they decided to build the project Moonlight (which was one of the driving forces).
The last major web browser which used Microsoft Silverlight was Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10 which was discontinued by the end of December 2021.
The Silverlight web browser plugin gave access to multimedia Silverlight content. Various websites use Silverlight to deliver streaming video and other interactive features.
How to Open Microsoft Silverlight
Step 1: Open any web browser and visit the Silverlight home page.
Step 2: Scroll down the page and enter the “Download Now” button.
Step 3: You can see that the web browser starts downloading the Microsoft Silverlight software. You can also check the download status of the software by going to the downloads section of your web browser.
Step 4: Save the file to your computer at your desired location. Then open the location on your computer you saved the file into and clock on it to run it. If you are using Internet Explorer, you can also click “Run” to open the file directly instead of saving it first.
Step 5: Press “Continue” if a security warning pops up asking for confirmation.
Step 6: Push “Install Now” to install Silverlight.
Step 7: After the installation is finished, restart your web browser and visit any site that uses Silverlight to open the multimedia content.
Voila! That is exactly how you can use Microsoft Silverlight on your web browser.
Opening Silverlight Configuration
Step 1: Enter the Windows key to open the Windows Start screen on your computer.
Step 2: Type “Silverlight” to search for the configuration program.
Step 3: Click on “Microsoft Silverlight” to run the configuration utility.
Step 4: Browse through the tabs to change settings. There are various setting options provided. Some of them are automatic updating, permissions, and offline application storage.
Step 5: Press “OK” to close the utility.
That is how we can open and change the Silverlight configuration.
Do We Need Microsoft Silverlight?
Programming is a huge task in itself. So they always tend to use applications, frameworks, software which have cross-platform access. Like they can switch from one platform to other for example they need not worry while writing a piece of code in a particular language as it should work on all the platforms. That’s why development frameworks that support cross-platform access are a boon to programmers’ lives.
Programming one set of source code files which an interpreter then converts to run on different operating systems saves developers from maintaining multiple code bases. Microsoft Silverlight acts as a medium between web apps and different operating systems, so the Silverlight plugin becomes a necessity if you’re planning on running Silverlight apps you find on the Web; otherwise, you do not need this plugin.
Silverlight is one of Microsoft’s proprietary plugins to deliver a variety of multimedia products through web pages or Microsoft’s Windows mobile operating system. Developers can use Silverlight to create slideshows, stream videos, and also to create fully interactive games and other applications.
Cost and Download
Silverlight is free software, and you can download the plugin to run Silverlight applications through your browser on either Mac or Windows. However, SDKs are useless without a development environment to make software. These Software Development Kits popularly known as SDKs work best when coupled with Microsoft’s integrated development environment, Visual Studio. Visual Studio Express, a functional version with very limited features, is free from Microsoft, but you need to pay for the fully-featured version.
Any third-party software you install on your computer (apart from Microsoft Store) presents a potential security risk. Just like how consumption of junk food on regular basis is injurious to your health, similarly, usage of software containing malicious code or visiting a webpage with malicious Silverlight code will prove fatal for your computer.
In Conclusion, if you do not need to use any media streams or web applications that use the Silverlight plugin, then it is unnecessary. Having the plugin if you have no use with it needlessly exposes your computer or laptop to additional threats online. Moreover, you only need the development tools behind Silverlight if you plan on developing Silverlight applications. If you are only going to be running Silverlight applications online, you only need the Silverlight plugin.
The cross-platform operating system compatibility promises, especially on Linux systems, compared to its extensive support on Apple and Microsoft desktops for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome greatly destroyed the reputation of Silverlight among the common masses.
Microsoft was officially collaborating on the Moonlight project, Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems questioned: “The responsibility of Microsoft to keep the Silverlight platform compatible with other operating systems besides Windows (for obvious reasons)“. His concerns were indeed true as he took history as an example where Microsoft had launched products with the promise of cross-platform compatibility but was not so for example, Internet Explorer for UNIX and Windows Media Player for Mac.
Silverlight did not fail due to any technical reason. At a technical level, by the time Silverlight 4 and 5 came out, it was extremely powerful and was used to build some amazing enterprise software.
But in 2010, when Silverlight was gathering attraction, Apple released the iPad and a lot of people including the media saw this as the start of the post-Computer era. Then, Apple disallowed the use of browser plug-ins on iOS. It was required at that time that the software needed to work on iPad. At that period, a lot of software was written in Windows Forms or WPF, and increasingly Silverlight. None of which could run on the iPad which was a major blow to Silverlight.
As a result, Microsoft Silverlight slowly started losing its popularity and finally, it was discontinued. Microsoft has not actively developed Silverlight since about 2015, and the platform was completely retired on October 12, 2021.
At that time, Microsoft stopped providing updates for the platform and will remove access to the installer as well as the SDK and other resources. However, Silverlight applications won’t be shut down thanks to the “perpetual license” owed by Microsoft Silverlight. It just means that they won’t be updated, and it may be harder to find a browser that can run them.
Alternatives to Microsoft Silverlight
Everything has an alternative these days and so does Microsoft Silverlight! Some of the best alternatives to Microsoft Silverlight are: Blazer, HTML 5, Open Silver, Adobe AIR, Angular JS, and React JS.
So now you may have gotten your answer of “What is Microsoft Silverlight ?”. In short, it was a copy of Adobe Flash that was supposed to enable interactive media experiences, support multimedia content, and could be used to build and for immersive mobile apps and rich business applications on supported platforms and websites (including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox). It was just an ambitious technology project which never fulfilled its potential.
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Hope you had a great time reading this article and getting to know more about Microsoft Silverlight; its promises, its different versions, and its downfall.