Why Silverlight 4 is Redefining the Web

Since the release of Silverlight 4 and Windows Phone 7, we are starting to see a noticeable shift in how the Windows web platform is being used to benefit just about every area of the web. With Microsoft's recent announcement in their change of strategy for browser-based application frameworks, with HTML5 Canvas and Silverlight, it’s fascinating to see the direction the market is going.

Silverlight as a framework has seen some major re-tooling over the past year and several game-changing features have caused me to rethink my priorities as a web developer. While HTML and Javascript will always be the tools in my back pocket, I’m beginning to see where Silverlight is going as a platform and how it can and will be used in the future. One complaint developers and users alike have been making for years about Silverlight is its inability to anti-alias text. In .NET Framework 4 Microsoft has added a new property for Text objects called TextOptions.TextFormattingMode. When set to “Animated” Silverlight smoothes font edges in a similar fashion to ClearType. Finally, no more ugly, blocky text!

Silverlight 4 also adds some much-needed and often requested features:

  • Proper right-click context menu support
  • Support for HTML rendered inside Silverlight
  • Printing support
  • WCF / RIA services support
  • Support for Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF)
  • Animation effects enhancements

Since adding some of these new long requested features in the past year, I have seen a dramatic increase in the use of Silverlight across the web. Telerik for example seems to have figured out the possible capabilities of Silverlight as a next-gen web platform, as seen in their demo here. From a cloud perspective, the possibilities are endless.

From virtual machines to mobile applications, Silverlight is becoming as robust a platform as many Mobile operating systems. Though the web browser side of Silverlight is becoming more refined, the support of Silverlight on Windows Phone 7 is also contributing to its rapid adoption. These new tools and enhanced data support functions are enabling an entire new generation of mobile web developers to forge new territory. Here at Merit Mile, we have also constructed our portfolio using Silverlight’s Deep Zoom functionality and while it may take the browser market a while to catch up to HTML5 Canvas standards, Silverlight isn’t going anywhere. As of December 2, the Silverlight 5 beta has been announced with some more exciting features.