This week, Microsoft announced their changing strategy regarding Silverlight. You can read more about that here:
Note, this post just came out today, which clarifies things a lot. http://team.silverlight.net/announcement/pdc-and-silverlight/
The key points are that going forward, Silverlight’s focus will be as the framework with which you will create Windows Phone 7 applications. As for Rich Internet/Interactive Applications on the web, Microsoft is going to start pushing HTML 5 as the solution.
A number of my friends on Twitter and elsewhere, members of the Flash community, were virtually high-fiving and toasting to the death of Silverlight. It’s certainly nice to see Flash alive and kicking as yet another “Flash Killer” leaves the ring. But I think I saw things in a bit of a different light.
I don’t think there was any meeting where Microsoft execs sat around saying, “You know, Flash is just too good and popular. We’re never going to be able to compete with it. Let’s just give up. They win.”
I think it was probably a bit closer to this: “You know, in terms of RIAs, HTML 5 does just about everything you need to do. All the best RIAs are made in HTML. And it’s only going to get better. It doesn’t make sense to have a heavy, proprietary web plugin that tries to do the same thing. Let’s just embrace HTML 5.”
I’m talking specifically about applications here. Although they tried a bit in the beginning, Silverlight never really made it into the gaming or more creative types of applications. If anything, it was really a contender to be a Flex killer more than a Flash killer. And while I think HTML 5 has a long way to go in terms of being a real contender for games and more creative types of Flash apps, I think for most common web applications, it’s the real answer. I think every web application I currently use is HTML based. I’m writing this blog post in WordPress, a very complex HTML based app. I make heavy use of Google Documents and Windows Live Office docs. I use GMail and Google Reader, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I use Flickr for photos, Garmin Connect and Daily Mile to log my running, BaseCamp, Bugzilla, and Pivotal Tracker for software projects, etc., etc. All are completely or almost completely HTML. I can’t think of any straight up Flex or Silverlight apps that I use on any kind of regular basis.
Of course, there are video sites, in which Flash and Silverlight is still pretty strong. I’m the furthest thing from an expert in video, so I’m in no position to evaluate how close HTML 5 video is to being a real competitor to Flash / Silverlight video. According to some, it’s there, according to others, not close. But I imagine that any weaknesses it has will soon be shored up.
Again, I still think HTML 5 has a way to go to catch up with much of what Flash can do in terms of rich interactivity. But I feel that in the world of everyday apps, it has won. Rather than taking Silverlight’s “death” as a victory, I think the Flash world, particularly RIA devs, should take it as a warning.