I've been reading a ton of blog posts containing developer reactions to Microsoft's Silverlight announcement at MIX '07. One thing that I've noticed is that people are coming to some of the same conclusions I came to in my post What Comes After AJAX?. Specifically, it is now clear that WPF/E Silverlight is a contender for the throne of king development platform for building rich internet applications (RIAs). Additionally, it is also clear that the days of Asynchronous Javascript and XMLHttpRequest (AJAX) being first choice when building rich internet applications are numbered. Below are excerpts of some of the posts I found interesting.

In his blog post entitled The Day the Web Changed: NET in the Browser! Jeff Prosise writes

MIX 07 opened yesterday and I believe we'll look back on that day as the day that the Web changed. Microsoft made several announcements, not the least of which is that Silverlight, formerly known as "WPF/E," will include a cross-platform version of the CLR that runs in the browser.

What does it mean? It means goodbye JavaScript, hello C#. It means managed code in the browser. It means an escape from HTML and browser DOMs and a better way to build browser-based UIs using XAML. It means incredibly rich browser experiences and a whole new generation of RIAs.

In his blog post entitled May ASP.NET AJAX Futures CTP... wtf? Drew Marsh writes
Soooo, ok, they released a new May CTP of ASP.NET AJAX futures. It's got some new support in there for Silverlight related stuff now. Great, awesome, love to see it and totally understand they need to pimp the new platform. What has really happened beyond that though?
Anyway, it seems like Silverlight is ursurping the development of the core AJAX futures and, while I'm all for Silverlight, I think it's a bad move to put these features on the backburner. They should be fleshed out and delivered. They are extremely valuable to those of us trying to build rich web browser (only) based applications.

I'd love to heard from someone inside MS on what exactly their intentions are at this point. If it's dead, fine... just let us know. If it's not, tell us what to expect and when to expect it so we can make decisions on how to proceed. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the stuff that was cut from ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 and ended up in the futures was much more important to developing rich internet applications and 1.0. It's true that 1.0 layed the groundwork, but having to cobble together all the UI in JavaScript still with $get and $addHandler, while possible, isn't what I'd call a good platform.

Drew Marsh also writes in his post Where's the MSHTML/IE news?

I find it strange that there has been absolutely no mention of what the MSHTML/IE teams are working on right now yet at Mix. I remember they stood on stage last year and talked about much shorter product cycles. Shouldn't we be expecting some kind of new enhancements by at least the early second half 2007? I really don't care about the IE shell, I care most about MSHTML coming up to speed with more/better support for CSS (gimme my selectors damn it!), enhancements to the DOM, etc.

Update: It seems I didn't provide enough context in this post because I assumed people reading this would also read my What Comes After AJAX? post. My point in this post isn't to state that Silverlight will kill AJAX. In my previous post I already mentioned that based on the data we have, Adobe's rich internet application (RIA) platform seems more likely to take the top spot than Microsoft's. Instead I was pointing out that we are further along the road towards replacing Asynchronous Javascript and XMLHttpRequest (AJAX) with a richer and more productive set of platforms. Additionally, if you read between the lines of the MIX '07 announcements, it seems AJAX is no longer the new hotness, given the lack of news on improvements to the Microsoft AJAX stack coming from the conference.

Popular consumer websites like Yahoo! Maps, Flickr, YouTube and MySpace have made rich interactivity mainstream and even expected when it comes to building a modern "Web 2.0" consumer website by using a post-AJAX platform (Flash). My thesis is that we will see more sites embracing post-AJAX platforms until we reach a tipping point where brand new Web 2.0 sites choose something like Silverlight, Flash or OpenLaszlo instead of AJAX when considering a platform for building a rich internet application. 


Categories: Web Development
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Wednesday, May 2, 2007 3:17:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Silverlight is exciting, but the elephant in the room is Linux support. There are a LOT of governments/companies that have invested in low-priced Linux systems because they were told their web apps would work on Linux desktops. And Flash works pretty well on Linux.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 6:29:23 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I can appreciate why we need a better platform for building web apps, but I just can't help wondering if this isn't Java Applets all over again...

When I first heard of Silverlight, I saw that it was just Flash - and Flash is something I almost never use, have disabled in my browser, and selectively enable for viewing the occasional video. That's all it is to me: a heavyweight plugin for viewing video. Flash apps I've seen are terrible resource hogs and almost invariably have poor usability and terminal mouse dependency.

With the CLR relationship, I'm not seeing a whole lot more than Java plugins again, though. Another square box of heavyweight otherness embedded in the browser... I suppose it's an advantage (in a weird way) that Silverlight doesn't include UI components, that one needs to fall back to HTML for that, AFAIK.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 8:36:52 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This is a new attack on a standard format like HTML in the browser. We have seen them before: Java, Flash, .Net full versions. None worked. This one is supposed to work because it is 1) small and runs on more than 2) one browser and on 3) the Mac and 4) is integrated with the MS dev stack.

Everything but 4) is present in Flash already. Has Flash replaced HTML? Do you really believe that integration with the rest of .Net and VS is going to win the battle? Most web guys I know don't know .Net, they don't have a skillset in that technology to be transfered to the web.

Good luck, I don't believe those were the reasons previous attempts failed. People don't want vendor lock in. Silverlight is super vendor lock in. It is not going to fly.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 9:10:13 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This is off topic. I just noticed something about your writing. I have been reading your blog for a long time but I just noticed that you use the word "entitled" as in (blog post entitled "blah blah") almost everywhere. Don't you mean "titled"?

I'm not a native English speaker so I might be wrong, but I believe this is an incorrect usage of the word.

Anyway, thank for a nice and informative blog.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 4:48:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
While Silverlight is certainly an exciting development, Microsoft has s serious credibility problem with cross-platform solutions. They killed IE for the Mac, Windows Media Player for the Mac, Microsoft Messenger for Mac is nowhere near feature parity with Windows Live Messenger, Remote Desktop Connection for Macs still PowerPC only and isn't on par with the version in Vista, Office for Intel Macs has lost VBA (and still hasn't shipped), Virtual PC for Mac is pushing up daisies...am I to seriously believe after this long trail of corpses that if Silverlight "wins" then Microsoft won't choose to kill it too for Mac?
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 5:49:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Combining this post and the one about Open Source being dead, it appears that you believe Open Source and AJAX are on their way out. But outside of your Microsoft bubble, here in web developer land, all anyone talks about is LAMP and AJAX (and Flash and Amazon). I can't believe that you believe what you write is true. If so, you are really out of touch with the Web.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 6:04:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I could only laugh when I went to see some of these amazing demos, but first needed to download something from MSFT to make it work. Needless to say, I didn't.

One of my coworkers did in fact download the plugin and install it. It crashed his browser repeatedly.

All hail the Silverlight Kool-Aid!
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 6:28:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
There is no way, zero chance, that this beats AJAX for the simple fact that it is for .NET exclusively. There ya go. Done deal.

FLEX? Maybe. Laszlo? Long shot. Silverlight? Not a chance in hell.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 11:54:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I didn't mean my post to be taken as Silverlight is now guaranteed to replace AJAX. I've added a clarification of my position at the bottom of the post.
Thursday, May 3, 2007 3:10:50 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The bit of your thesis that doesn't seem to gell is that Flash has been 'better' than AJAX since forever but with the exception of the ones that need to stream video, all the Web 2.0 sites are completely eschewing it.

In fact if you look at Flickr, the web 2.0 poster child, they started with Flash and re-tooled the other way to AJAX.

What's so much better in Silverlight and the next version of Flash that will reverse this trend?
Gareth Simpson
Thursday, May 3, 2007 5:21:26 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You say "a richer and more productive set of platforms", but I hear "a tangled and convoluted set of interdependencies that only one vendor will ever support, and then only as long as it suits them".

Show me Silverlight on Linux and Mac. Show me Silverlight using Mono. Then show me two independent and compatible implementations, one of which is open source, and then it will be a platform worthy of our consideration.

We're out here developing stuff on the Internet, and by golly we are going to start migrating our skills to the desktop, but we're done with proprietary, vendor-controlled platforms.
Thursday, May 3, 2007 10:25:56 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
In terms of better than Flash, consider the development environment. How many flash *applications* are there? With Silverlight 1.1 and the embedded CLR runtime, you'll be able to build "Flash" like apps using your favorite language.

Ruby? Python? Sure thing.

Linux? It'll happen. But it may take a long while: http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/May-01.html

It's not a total slam dunk, but it will be significant. I think it's worth watching.
Thursday, May 3, 2007 11:28:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Bah. If you're going to use Python to write a desktop app (an excellent suggestion BTW), why wouldn't you just use wxPython or PyGame? Then, at least, you end up with an application that is cross-platform.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 9:28:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Silverlight looks more competitive with Flash, not Ajax. It's really not useful to use the word "replace" because that never happens. Different apps will be created on different platforms as is appropriate.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 3:54:12 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
One thing that you forget is that all of these client side technologies need to still access data on the server. That is where AJAX and services come into play. Another thing to realize is that Silverlight is going to be much more performant in browsers than flash and AJAX by itself. Again though, you still need a way for your Silverlight to access data on the server.
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