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Microsoft still confused about Silverlight's irrelevance on the Web

By Rob Pegoraro

For a moment earlier this week, it looked like Microsoft was acknowledging the obvious: Its Silverlight software has no meaningful future on the Web among consumers.

If you just said "Silver-what?" to yourself, you've got company. Silverlight showed some promise when it debuted three years ago as a competitor to Adobe's Flash. But by November 2008, when Major League Baseball reversed an earlier switch to move its online video back to Flash, Silverlight had already begun to fade.


Since then, Silverlight as a Web format has been ignored in the fast-growing mobile market--the browser in Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 doesn't support it, even though WP7 apps are themselves written in Silverlight. On the consumer desktop, Silverlight has seen few takers since Netflix began requiring Mac and Windows users to install this free plug-in to view movies streamed from the site.

It's no longer valid to compare to Silverlight to Flash; it's more like Oracle's Java, just without the annoying update routine and the security vulnerabilities.

So when ZDNet's Microsoft reporter Mary-Jo Foley quoted Microsoft corporate president Bob Muglia as saying "our strategy has shifted" with respect to Silverlight on the Web and that the Web's HTML "is the only true cross-platform solution for everything, including [Apple's] iOS platform," I thought it was a belated recognition of reality.

Those words must have upset somebody at Microsoft, as Muglia, chief executive Steve Ballmer and vice president Scott Guthrie each posted statements over the past few days renewing their support for Silverlight as a consumer Web format.

Wrote Ballmer: "Silverlight provides the richest media streaming capabilities on the web, and we will continue to deliver that on both Windows and Mac."

Good luck with that. A site would be crazy to adopt Silverlight as a media format now, when that decision guarantees its content won't be viewable on any mobile device (Flash, at least, works on newer Android phones) and will require many home users to install extra software.

(Don't get me wrong: I'm no fan of Flash and would be happy to see it supplanted by Web standards. At the same time, I have no problem with people using Silverlight on business projects, behind Web servers or inside application development. Just keep it out of my browser.)

Unfortunately, some sites remain that crazy. Besides Netflix, NBC's site still requires Silverlight. And just yesterday, the District Department of Transportation launched a "dashboard" page to track the performance of its Circulator bus service that's written entirely in Silverlight. Sigh.

At some point, it seems only polite for Microsoft to remind Web authors of the obvious: Unless you have some seriously committed users willing to take extra steps, do not use Silverlight on a consumer-facing page; please use our other Web-development tools instead.

When do you think that will come? Or, for a simpler question: How long until Netflix dumps Silverlight?

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 5, 2010; 5:06 PM ET
Categories:  The Web, Video  
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Microsoft also prevents Linux desktop users from adopting some method of viewing silverlight video, including Netflix. Linux desktop is competition for Windows desktop. Netflix sells a lot of video to people with Microsoft XBox 360, so they apparently use silverlight and slight Linux to please Microsoft. How long this will last is anyone's guess.

Posted by: linear | November 5, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

This seems to be a pretty smug and flippant article regarding Silverlight. I disagree with it- personally ive never seen streaming video that looks Better than when in Silverlight - such as Netflix, Olympics, DNC convention etc. Amazing full-screen HD video with my laptop on wireless network. The silverlight plugin is about the same size as the Flash plugin - takes under a minute with DSL or above to install (6megs). If you have a modern PC/Mac with decent internet speed - you will have no problems getting great high-rez video with silverlight. And there are ALOT of background apps for developers with this software. I do alot of webcast streaming, and use Silverlight exclusively.

Posted by: mounddog | November 6, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Microsoft is swirling around the drain. Their CEO is dumping his stock ("Ballmer selling 75 million shares", 'Nuff said?

Posted by: hairguy01 | November 6, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

These are good consumer-level comments, as Mr. Pegoraro states. But Silverlight is much more than Flash or HTML5. It's the .NET framework pushed down to the client.

It's easy to critique something visually, but there's a lot behind Silverlight ... and the heavy client counterpart, WPF, which stands to do wonders for a variety of devices and competes with Apple's Core Animation - much more effectively.

Android uses Java -- which failed miserably as an Applet language and is now trying to make a comeback.

Silverlight is a code-name that stuck (unfortunately). .NET has been hugely successful for Microsoft in the last 10 years -- these facts are ignored. The Expression Studio tools all work with WPF and probably will for HTML5 as well - they are quite remarkable (and are written in WPF, which is also too-obscure an acronym).

Posted by: noozhour1 | November 6, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Best regards for you all,

Looking forward to your visiting.

Posted by: fsafs19 | November 6, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Hi Rob wrote article yesterday about copyright infringement. Heres same article written today:

Same Sentences, Same Headliner, same Paragraph headers. So On Going Grabbing Is name of Game. Most of Article is Word for Word Same As Robs.

Now NobOdy really likes Flash constant nagging for Updating & lack of 64 bit O/S Support. Silver Light Was Better, Microsoft sends out two signals, HTML5 is Answer or that SilverLight Is Still Answer.

In Any case, More is More & More is B
etter. Good Show To ALL.


Posted by: thomasxstewart1 | November 6, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Rob, do you understand that Windows Phone 7 is a consumer oriented device on the web? You do seem to understand that there is at least some chance that Windows Phone 7 has a future. That future will surely involve Silverlight as a consumer oriented technology on the web. A major strength of Microsoft's strategy is offering choices to their customers. Those who don't like Netflix's choice of Silverlight should complain to Netflix.

Posted by: dnjake | November 6, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Silverlight lacks 64 bit O/S Support?

HAHAH! Now it really IS dead!

That's what MS gets for trying to bully people into their proprietary software!

Hey Rob: did you ever do a hatched job on Office 2010?

Their most recent scam is to pull functionality out, then charge you to put it back in.

For example, in Excel they charge you ten bucks for each add-in function (like viewing cell dependencies).

And the "ribbon" interface is SO bad and SO different that I'm absolutely positive they only did it to sell the old menu interface for $30. Otherwise, the obviously logical thing to do is provide the old interface as an option.

Microsoft has a history of doing things to hurt their customers because they think they'll get more money that way.

It's an example of capitalism "market failure"

--faye kane, homeless idiot-savant
More of my smartmouth at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | November 6, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I can tell Microsoft why SilverLight is irrelevant.

Flash is better over all, Flash has a smaller player, better scripting language by far. Better compression and installed in more computers & devices than SilverLight.

Flash even has a desktop player (Adobe air) used in games like League of Legends that is better than anything Microsoft has made or purchased.

SilverLite was behind the game the day it was launched and has been falling farther & farther behind with every release.

Posted by: imZandor | November 6, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

hairguy01, the stock sale is strictly a capital gains issue.

Posted by: taonima2000 | November 6, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

The now foreign company called Microsoft. Has the historical practice of selling the same software platform by different names or just by converting the name to a numerical number. The more people understand the basics of Operating systems functions. They have become aware of this foreign company’s (Microsoft) greedy practices.

Its latest blatant practice was “Stripping” Windows Vista’s major advanced function which caused many users to dislike all the clichés. They fixed some of the clichés and basically just “removed” many other functions. Only to repackage the “same” Intellectual product and by deception sold it to the Global Market as Window’s 7.

A prime example was completely removing Movie Maker 6.0 which enabled Windows Vista users to convert Audio and Video (Codecs) and publish these files directly to a DVD disk. Since, fixing this function may have reduced their profit margin and or delayed the release of the Windows Vista Service Pack “3”… OOOppPPssSSss……. my bad…!! .. I mean Window’s 7…

They now “falsely” claim that a very Clichy program called Movie Maker Live(“Internet” add-on) to a user’s browser serves the same purpose…??? Also; this foreign company (Microsoft) placed DVD Maker as a very small standalone program. Please..!!! This DVD Maker program can not even work with Windows’ own Media Codices ….!!!

Therefore, it is only logical that their proprietary program Silvelight is useless in the new Internet environments. This foreign company’s (Microsoft) attempt to profit from advertising to internet users will not succeed. Granted..!! Adobe Flash is a piece of crap and the content of flash is one of the causes. That web browsers are slowed to a crawl and in many cases lock-ups many lap tops. Lap tops that are incapable of handling the excessive strain on their CPU during visits to contents of flash or silverlight on web pages. Flash has become a hackers dream to infiltrate vulnerabilities in web browsers. Not to mention the abusive advertisers who flood web pages with flash content. For now..!!! we can only hope..?? That some day someone or company can create a web
Player to view all web contents safely and without causing conflicts..

For now it is common knowledge that these two foreign companies Microsoft and Adobe are incapable and / or trustworthy enough to provide any type of solution that does not involve a “major” margin of profit to either one of them…

Microsoft still confused about Silverlight's irrelevance on the Web is a misnomer tile.

What it should read is ::

Microsoft upset about Silverlight's irrelevance on their Web profits…!!!

Murphy’s Business law : “ Greed is Everything ”…

Posted by: BFJustus | November 6, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

This is the problem with tech pundits. They don't have any REAL technical knowledge. Rob, you are simply a user. Nothing more.

Java is FAR more in use than Silverlight and has no peer in server-side or enterprise development. Nothing is more prevalent, more cross-platform or in more demand.

Stick to giving advice about installing Windows and creating passwords.

Posted by: eternalemperor | November 6, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Silverlight slows down viewing Netflix content on my MacBook Pro. I can watch the same content on my iPad without the problems Silverlight causes. So, even at the consumer level, people are figuring out that Silverlight is not a tenable technology. Instead of running to defend Silverlight, Microsoft developers need to look at the reading on the wall.

Posted by: query0 | November 7, 2010 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Silverlight is yet-another "protect the Windows platform" strategy. Microsoft is ***reactive*** to innovation and the market. Ballmer's statement shows how clueless this guy is.

Companies would be wise to ditch IE, Silverlight, Asp.Net and WPF as customer-facing web technologies. There are too many stable options out there that will give your company the freedom to move *vendor-independent*.

Microsoft ALWAYS puts proprietary hooks, "not invented here, so we do it our way" gotcha's in IE, et. al. They make up some good twists to their arguments at times, but make no mistake about it: "protect the Windows platform" is their #1 priority.

Microsoft culture is big on back-slapping their "very smart people", which are increasingly very inexperienced PMs and software architects. Many of their programs are subsidized by the profitable OS/Office programs. Effectively, it's socialized business where these programs do not, truly, face the market forces they intend to compete with. It is very common for a program to take years, spend millions if not billions, without making a dime. No *entrepreneurial-grade* outfit could afford that. IMHO, this has a lot to do with why Microsoft is out-of-touch with trend and innovation.

Silverlight was their typical *plagiery* strategy. See what's trendy and hot, duplicate it (but, in a half-baked, socialized environment per previous paragraph).

Posted by: Trober | November 7, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Eternal Emperor said:
"This is the problem with tech pundits. They don't have any REAL technical knowledge. Rob, you are simply a user. Nothing more."

Right. Rob's just a knucklehead that's forgotten more than someone like you ever knew. Not to blow sunshine up Pegoraro's skirts or anything, but he's the ULTIMATE end user. Gadget integration, hardware hassles, Windows and Mac-stuff, his knowledge set is wider than anyone in the bizz. And, he's been doing it since Win98.

But I know what YOU are, Emp..You, Mr. Emperor are a certified MCSE with a low grade Cisco cert that runs a network of 100 cookie-cutter workstations, two HP laserjets on a net and a two-card blade server with a RAID5 drive-backer.. Scary talented. You MCSE types must be making, I dunno, north of 40K these days as contractors, right? What YOU know wouldn't fill a thimble. Network doods are such morons.

Posted by: JamesChristian | November 7, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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