Silverlight 2.0: It’s “1 better than 1.0”

Last week I was visiting an intelligence community facility which has been known for several years for housing some of the brightest and most innovative adopters of Web 2.0 approaches for classified systems. I could say who and where, but then I’d have to… well, not kill anyone, just apologize to all my other friends at other agencies who think they’re the cat’s meow on classified Web 2.0. (With any luck this anonymity now makes each of them think, “Wait, who’s more advanced than we are?  How can we catch up??!”)Well, it turns out they’re excited about something new & cool they would like to use.

These folks are big fans, it turns out, of Silverlight, Microsoft’s plug-in based RIA foundation (enabling rich internet applications and media scenarios in the browser, whether that’s IE, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Silverlight 1.0 was released last September, for Mac and Windows with Linux coming, and one of the differences from Adobe’s Flash which gave Silverlight some traction also makes Silverlight very attractive for IC and other government uses; to quote Wikipedia, “Textual content created with Silverlight would be more searchable and indexable than that created with Flash as it is not compiled, but represented as text (XAML).”  That in itself is very significant for intelligence apps, and opens up all kinds of extended uses (you can read here or here about our early work at DIA with XML-based RIA and information exchange/discovery, though that was all before Silverlight came available).  And the XAML use makes it declarative, not imperative like Flash (no, I’m not talking about Kant again like yesterday).

Today there’s been an understandable surge of excitement (twittered and blogged) about Silverlight 2.0, which is preparing for its first public beta release.

Scott Guthrie, who runs the development teams for ASP.NET and Silverlight, blogs today about the new version launch.  He lays out some of the pretty impressive new capabilities and features:

  • A rich UI framework that makes building rich cross-browser Web applications (and desktop Windows apps) much easier, with a powerful graphics and animation engine.
  • A rich set of built-in controls that developers and designers can use to quickly build apps, including data manipulation controls (DataGrid, ListBox, etc).
  • Rich networking support, including out-of-the-box support for calling REST, WS*/SOAP, POX, RSS, and standard HTTP services, and supporting cross domain network access (enabling Silverlight clients to directly access resources and data from resources on the web). 
  • A rich .NET base class library of functionality and APIs, plus LINQ and LINQ to XML library support enabling easy transformation and querying of data), as well as local data caching and storage support.

 Scott also has in his post today a cool step-by-step tutorial of how to create a RIA in Silverlight 2.0.  Here’s a screenshot of a simple searching-and-browsing-and-drilling-down-in-Digg client he built quickly just to show off some of the data-binding, networking, and user controls.  Oh, by the way, “The entire application is implemented in about 35 lines of C# code and 75 lines of XAML page/user-control markup.  It only uses controls and libraries built-into Silverlight.”

Keep an eye on Scott’s blog – he’ll be announcing the 2.0 beta download imminently, and will also be posting the entire Digg app he built when the tutorial’s done, natch.

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6 Responses

  1. Do you know what the penetration of SL is compared to Flash, which is at like 98 percent of computers? I’ve played iwth SL and it was easy to use btu i like to know that ANYONE will be able to use the app, so right now i still use Flash mostly. I’ll download SL 2.0 when it’s out and check it out –


  2. nice post – here’s what billg had to say on the subject:



  3. What about AJAX and JavaFX? Okay, never mind FX, Sun will screw that up.


  4. Hi, re:SEO, are you aware that the opposite is actually the case?

    Do a Google search on any term, and add “filetype:swf” to halt display of HTML pages. You’ll see the text inside the SWF files.

    I don’t think text in a XAML file shows up.

    It’s like the Microsoft story on screenreaders… Flash has it, and even announcements for future Silverlight don’t. Not the reverse! 🙂

    (For “declarative SWF construction”, see Flex.)

    Whatever you’re doing, you should have fun with it, and create something valuable. Just beware of making your choices on funky info. Stay skeptical of what you read on the net…!



  5. Hi John – we agree that having a choice is a good thing. I like Flex, and I’ve used Flash for a long time (I’m from SF originally and remember the old Macromedia days) but I’m liking what I’m seeing with SL. We’ll see what the market says! 🙂

    On your specific point, it’s not black vs. white, and that is why I said precisely that SL text is “more searchable and indexable than that created with Flash,” not that Flash has no text whatsoever.

    Thanks for reading – lewis


  6. I’m still not sure how you can get “more searchable”, when the opposite appears to be the case…?

    (I’d offer to search for some Silverlight pieces to compare, but other than finding the invoking HTML, I’m not sure how. The XAML-in-a-ZIP isn’t as visible in the search engines as SWF is.)

    tx, jd/adobe


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