Microsoft: Silverlight capabilities exceed those of HTML5

Silverlight will offer a richer Web experience than HTML5, says Microsoft -- besides, the HTML5 spec isn't stable yet

While acknowledging the importance of HTML5, Microsoft stressed this week that its Silverlight rich Internet technology extends the Web beyond what HTML5 allows.

Standards-based multimedia features offered by HTML5 have taken the spotlight lately from proprietary technologies, such as Silverlight and Adobe's Flash. But Silverlight still has a purpose in the wake of HTML5's emergence, said Microsoft's Brad Becker, director of product management for Developer Platforms, in a blog entry entitled "The Future of Silverlight."

[ See InfoWorld's June 2009 report, "HTML5: Could it kill Flash and Silverlight?" | Keep up with app dev issues and trends with InfoWorld's Fatal Exception blog and Developer World newsletter. ]

"On the Web, the purpose of Silverlight has never been to replace HTML; it's to do the things that HTML (and other technologies) couldn't in a way that was easy for developers to tap into. Microsoft remains committed to using Silverlight to extend the Web by enabling scenarios that HTML doesn't cover," Becker said. "From simple 'islands of richness' in HTML pages to full desktop-like applications in the browser and beyond, Silverlight enables applications that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want."

Silverlight is valuable for business/enterprise applications, premium media experiences, and consumer applications and games, Becker said.

"The media features of Silverlight are far beyond what HTML5 will provide and work consistently in users' current and future browsers," Becker said. Silverlight offers advantages in such areas as high-definition video, content protection, 3-D video, and smooth streaming, said Becker.

Microsoft, Becker said, is participating in more than 400 standards engagements, including the development of HTML.

"It's not just idle talk. Microsoft has many investments based on or around HTML, such as SharePoint, Internet Explorer, and ASP.Net. We believe HTML5 will become ubiquitous just like HTML 4.01 is today," Becker said. Microsoft has committed to backing HTML5 in its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser and has partially leveraged it in Internet Explorer 8 as well.

The company is working on donating test suites to help improve consistency between implementations of HTML5 and CSS (Cascading Styles Sheets) 3, Becker said. But these technologies have had issues with variations between browsers.

"HTML5 and CSS 3 are going to make this worse for a while as the specs are new and increase the surface area of features that may be implemented differently. In contrast, since we develop all implementations of Silverlight, we can ensure that it renders the same everywhere," said Becker.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has shipped four major versions of Silverlight in about half the time that HTML5 has been under design, he said. Silverlight 4 shipped in April, making it the fourth release in two-and-a-half years. Silverlight also is more than a browser technology, with Microsoft investing in desktop, mobile and living room capabilities for the technology.

"For HTML5 to be really targetable, the spec has to stabilize, browsers have to all implement the specs in the same way and over a billion people have to install a new browser or buy a new device or machine. That's going to take a while. And by the time HTML5 is broadly targetable, Silverlight will have evolved significantly. Meanwhile, Silverlight is here now and works in all popular browsers and operating systems," Becker said. 

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