Shedding Some Light on Silverlight
Does the world need yet another way to embed animations and videos in Web pages? Yes, says Microsoft, which released the 1.0 version of a browser plug-in called Silverlight earlier this month.
You could have easily missed out on the news, since Microsoft refrained from making much of a fuss about it. But Silverlight has some pretty sweeping goals: It competes with Adobe's Flash player, which so far has been the dominant way to liven up a Web page with interactive multimedia (not to mention some obnoxious ads).
Silverlight does not, however, run on nearly as many computers as Flash. Its system requirements boil down to "Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X 10.4." Nor can all browsers run this plug-in on those operating systems: In Windows, Opera and Safari 3 aren't yet supported, while on a Mac, the Mozilla-based Camino browser didn't run it either.
Microsoft is also working with Novell to ship a Linux version of Silverlight.
I've installed a copy on a new iMac and on laptops running Windows XP and Vista and have had little to complain about so far. The program was quick to download and install, and online presentations--I watched a news clip at Major League Baseball's site and played with a somewhat silly interactive animation on Microsoft's developers' site--looked as sharp as they do in most Flash presentations. In other words, I can't say that I sensed a huge upgrade in interactive media.
I do appreciate how Silverlight, unlike Flash, has an actual preferences menu you can access with a right-click (the only option available is an auto-update feature that is, sensibly enough, enabled by default).
But if we're going to have to download yet another browser plug-in for every computer we use, I'd like to see a little more reward for my efforts than Silverlight has delivered so far. That will depend on what developers do with this technology--see Microsoft's online showcase for some examples of that.
Have you tried this plug-in yet? Or did you not know about it until you read this post?
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