Friday, December 20, 2013

Where is Silverlight now?

Time ago I wrote an article about the comparison between of HTML5 and Silverlight. That article was indeed about the "comparison" itself rather than another attempt to compare the two; mainly because I consider that kind of measuring to be pointless. Then again with the pass of time the same question arises: is Silverlight dead?

Before going into trying to answer that, allow me to be clearer than what I was at the time and let me rephrase the question: is the silverlight plugin for browsers dead? Well... the answer is yes, not even a "maybe". But as with any existing software, dead is not actually extinct. We still have people writing code in COBOL, FORTRAN,  DELPHI and VB6. And this is because the enterprise market does not move at the same pace as the consumer market. They invest in infrastructure, they keep it, and they treasure it. And Silverlight was highly adopted in the enterprise for LOB applications. So in that area, Silverlight is going to be there for some time.

So why do people complain? Well the media helped. Panic: Silverlight is dead, go to HTML 5! And when there is a fire, people's first reaction is to scream and run away, instead of finding the origin and trying to do something.

Now, to be honest I was quite disappointed when I saw everybody at Microsoft just jumping off the Silverlight ship. As a C#/XAML developer I felt betrayed, I could not imagine how someone could drop all those really cool, dynamic, responsive and beautiful applications for basic HTML pages. And when they announced that ARM versions of the Surface (the RT) wouldn't run Silverlight I was really mad. But I was short-sighted. It took me a bit until I realized the obvious: I could do the exact same thing that I was doing with a "plugin in a browser" with "an app"; a mobile app, a windows store app, and it would be better fitted for my Windows Phone or my Surface table than any web site. The skills are transferable, and the underlying is similar,it is not a hard task at all. 

And then everything made sense, Microsoft would support HTML5 for the web, pushing the standard along other big guys, and Silverlight was repurposed to fit other roles, and as of today 200.000+ apps in the Windows Phone Store shows that it is not dead.

HTML5 is going to be there, so we have to support it, because it is all we have. Yes, is sad to admit it, more than 20 years later, we have nothing better. HTML is terrible, JavaScript is terrible, and the new potpourri called HTML5, is still terrible. But again, let's face it, there is nothing better

A Windows Store app where you see XAML and .NET is not technically Silverlight, but it will take you no time to convert your Silverlight app into a new one, either a regular WPF, windows phone, or windows store (ARM or x86). A lot of the code can be reused, with little to no modification at all.

Silverlight is not dead, it evolved. You have it on your pocket in your Windows Phone, your Windows tablet, on your Windows computer at home; it is just not constrained anymore to be a hanging plugin at the will of a browser. It does not require a browser anymore. It's transparent to your eyes, you don't see it, and all you see is an app. Because that's all you need.