As far as I can tell by digging through the hype and PR, Microsoft’s new Silverlight platform is a native-code browser plugin that allows dynamic applications to run in web browsers, much like Flash and Java. It’s going to be the Next Big Thing and revolutionize the web (much like Flash and Java promised long ago).
It’s a great idea, but it’s hardly original. It’s essentially a Flash competitor, and from the very little we’ve seen so far, it looks very good. They’re offering native plugins for Firefox (Win/Mac), Safari, and IE 6-7, while unsurprisingly ignoring desktop Linux users. (Can’t say I blame them.)
But I’m not about to drop everything to start making apps with this new platform. It’s brand new and technically still in beta, which means it’ll be at least 3 years until I can consider using it for something important. Until a certain age and saturation level, I can’t assume that my audience will have Silverlight installed in their browsers.
Flash reached that point a few years ago, but Flash has been around for a long time. Microsoft has a lot of work to do to get there. They can’t even depend on most Windows computers having the .NET runtime installed yet, and that’s been popular and stable since 2002.
The best thing about this is that the new competition is forcing Adobe to dramatically improve Flash (and the new Flex project), and in a few years, web developers will have some great, mature choices when making dynamic apps.