What is Microsoft Silverlight?
Have you heard of Microsoft Silverlight? It is an all-purpose plug-in designed by Microsoft and launched in 2007. As of now, it will receive its burial in the digital cemetery in October 2021.
So, why should we worry about what Microsoft Silverlight is when its glory days have passed? Let’s take a moment to consider what Silverlight was and how its demise could affect the digital world.
What is Silverlight, exactly?
Silverlight is depreciated technology. It’s a product of Microsoft’s ambitious push to create a unified media experience across PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.
Launched in 2007, Silverlight is an application framework designed to run “rich” internet applications. Think of it as an alternative to Adobe Flash, which crams static and interactive media into “containers” that requires a “player” (plugin) to run.
Like Flash, Silverlight is an all-purpose plugin for streaming videos, livestreams, animations, and vibrant graphics to devices. However, it relies heavily on Microsoft’s XAML — a text-based markup language — for the user interface, animations, and vector graphics. It’s also based on Microsoft’s .NET Framework, allowing developers to use any tool that supports the .NET language.
Ultimately, Silverlight gives web developers a way to enable rich animations using Windows-based formats rather than Flash. It supports Windows Media Video (WMV), Windows Media Audio (WMA), H.264 video, Advanced Audio Coding, and MPG3. It doesn’t require the traditional Windows-based players.
What led to Silverlight’s demise?
Silverlight’s demise stems from a combination of factors. Overall, however, the software world simply moved on to a better, more secure content delivery method.
When Silverlight launched in 2007, it seemed to be an enormous success. Microsoft pulled in several major partners, including NBC, which used Silverlight to stream the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Political conventions used Silverlight during the same year, as did the 2010 Winter Olympics. Even Amazon Video and Netflix used Silverlight as their video-streaming backbone.
But if Microsoft had a hit on its hands, it was short-lived. Problems quickly surfaced, such as bugs in various applications. Unfortunately, these bugs were only one small facet of the overall problem.
In a 2011 blog, former Silverlight producer manager Scott Barnes said Microsoft didn’t have a coherent strategy — the company was 100% reactive and unable to understand what the market required. Microsoft also pushed Silverlight 2 and Silverlight 3 long before anyone — including its management teams — was ready.
Before long, HTML5 arrived as a very versatile framework with the promise of a great future online. Silverlight swiftly became obsolete even for those still using it. After announcing its plans in 2013, Netflix switched over to HTML5 in 2015, given Silverlight’s eventual demise. Amazon Video switched over to HTML5 the same year.
When will Microsoft end Silverlight support?
Microsoft officially ends support for the final version of Silverlight 5 on October 12, 2021. That means it won’t receive official quality improvements and security updates. The installer won’t be available after that date either.
Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10 will be the last browser to support the platform, after Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 dropped Silverlight on January 31, 2020. Google Chrome discontinued support in version 45 (September 2015), while Mozilla waited until March 2017 to remove Silverlight in Firefox 52. Both Opera and Microsoft Edge never even supported the platform.
Silverlight disappeared on Android and iOS sometime around 2015. It was the primary development environment for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which was succeeded by Windows 10 Mobile and eventually discontinued in December 2019.
Of course, at this point, the 2021 death sentence is little more than a coup de grâce. Microsoft advised everyone to stop using Silverlight entirely in 2015, signaling that support for the software would eventually cease. By 2018, less than 0.1% of all websites used Silverlight.
Is Silverlight still available?
When it comes down to it, the only reason to download Silverlight is if you need to research for a project on different browser software gone bad. If you are literally in that situation, you can download Silverlight 5 up until October 2021. Unfortunately, given its current state, you won’t be able to do much with the service. Silverlight hasn’t been worth using in years.
Trying out Silverlight would quickly prove to be ineffective; you won’t be able to tackle much, and the software could be a risk to your computer. If you do need to see an app to understand a framework for web development, consider trying out HTML5. This program will offer a bit of future-proofing, and it’s compatible with current internet content.
All of that said, if you still insist on trying out Silverlight, be sure to install it safely and in a place without sensitive data—like on a virtual machine. Silverlight no longer comes with customer support or software upgrades, so if an issue pops up, your only solution may be debugging it yourself. OS support for Silverlight is currently a hit-or-miss.
Application framework for writing and running rich Internet applications
"Silverlight" redirects here. For other uses, see Silverlight (disambiguation).
Microsoft Silverlight (or to simplify Silverlight) is a deprecatedapplication framework designed for writing and running rich web applications, similar to Adobe's own runtime, Adobe Flash. A plugin for Silverlight is still available for a very small number of browsers. While early versions of Silverlight focused on streaming media, later versions supported multimedia, graphics, and animation, and gave support to developers for CLI languages and development tools. Silverlight was also one of the two application development platforms for Windows Phone, but web pages using Silverlight did not run on the Windows Phone or Windows Mobile versions of Internet Explorer, as there was no Silverlight plugin for Internet Explorer on those platforms.
Microsoft plans to terminate support for Silverlight on Internet Explorer 11 (the last remaining web browser still supporting Silverlight) on October 12, 2021. It is supported on Windows 8.1 and later and Windows Server 2012 and later, and e.g. Windows Embedded POSReady 7 and Windows Thin PC, while e.g. Windows 7 and earlier do not get security updates.
From the initial launch in 2007, reviewers compared the product to (since then discontinued) Adobe's Flash.
According to statowl.com, Microsoft Silverlight had a penetration of 64.2% in May 2011. Usage on July 2010 was 53.6%, whereas as of May 2011[update] market leader Adobe Flash was installed on 95.3% of browsers, and Java was supported on 76.5% of browsers. Support of these plugins is not mutually exclusive; one system can support all three.
Silverlight was used to provide video streaming for the NBC coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2008 conventions for both major United States political parties. Silverlight was also used by Amazon Video and Netflix for their instant video streaming services, but Netflix said in its Tech Blog in 2013 that, since Microsoft had announced Silverlight's end-of-life, they would be moving to HTML5 video.
Industry observers had announced the death of Silverlight as early as 2011. Internally, even proponents of the technology thought Extensible Application Markup Language as a concept was a bad idea from the start.
In 2012, Microsoft deprecated Silverlight for HTML5 in Windows 8, but as late as the beginning of 2015, it was not clear what Microsoft's official position was on the future of Silverlight as a technology.
In July of 2015, a Microsoft blog post finally clarified matters: "... we encourage companies that are using Silverlight for media to begin the transition to DASH/MSE/CENC/EME based designs". Microsoft plans to terminate Silverlight support on October 12, 2021. Support for IE7–8 was removed between 2014 and 2016, depending on the OS. Support for IE9 and IE10 has also ended "or though [sic] the support lifecycle of the underlying browsers, whichever is shorter." There is no Silverlight plugin available for Microsoft Edge. It has not been supported by Google Chrome since September 2015 or by Firefox since March 2017.
As of May 2021[update], less than 0.03% of sites used Silverlight, 2.0% used the discontinued Adobe Flash Player, and less than 0.016% use Java (client-side; server-side 3.5% use Java).
Silverlight provides a retained mode graphics system similar to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and integrates multimedia, graphics, animations, and interactivity into a single run-time environment. In Silverlight applications, user interfaces are declared in Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) and programmed using a subset of the .NET Framework. XAML can be used for marking up the vector graphics and animations. Silverlight can also be used to create Windows Sidebargadgets for Windows Vista.
Silverlight supports H.264 video,Advanced Audio Coding, Windows Media Video (WMV), Windows Media Audio (WMA), and MPEG Layer III (MP3) media content across all supported browsers without requiring Windows Media Player, the Windows Media PlayerActiveX control, or Windows Media browser plug-ins. Because Windows Media Video 9 is an implementation of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) VC-1 standard, Silverlight also supports VC-1 video. According to the end user license agreement VC-1 and H.264 are only licensed for the "personal and non-commercial use of a consumer". Silverlight makes it possible to dynamically load Extensible Markup Language (XML) content that can be manipulated through a Document Object Model (DOM) interface, a technique that is consistent with conventional Ajax techniques. Silverlight exposes a Downloader object which can be used to download content, like scripts, media assets, or other data, as may be required by the application. With version 2, the programming logic can be written in any .NETlanguage, including some nuclear evolution of common dynamic programming languages like IronRuby and IronPython.
A free software implementation (now abandoned) named Moonlight, developed by Novell in cooperation with Microsoft, was released to bring Silverlight version 1 and 2 functionality to Linux, FreeBSD, and other open source platforms, although some Linux distributions did not include it, citing redistribution and patent concerns. However, in May 2012, Moonlight was abandoned because of its lack of popularity.
Over the course of about five years, Microsoft had released five versions with varying platform support: The first version was released in 2007, and the fifth (and final) major version on May 8, 2012. It is compatible with later versions of Internet Explorer web browser on Microsoft Windows (except Windows RT) operating systems, with Safari on Apple macOS, and with mobile devices using the Windows Mobile and Symbian (Series 60) platforms.
Cross-platform Mozilla Firefox support for Silverlight was removed in Firefox 52 released in March 2017 when Mozilla removed support for NPAPI plugins, bringing it in-line with the removal of NPAPI plugin support in Google Chrome.
Silverlight requires an x86 processor with Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) support. Supported processors include the IntelPentium III and up, the AMDAthlon XP and up, and newer AMD Durons.
The following table presents an availability and compatibility matrix of Silverlight versions for various operating systems and web browsers.
|This version of Silverlight is currently supported on the given platform + browser combination.|
|Silverlight support on the given platform + browser combination has expired.|
|No Silverlight version has ever been supported on the given platform + browser combination.|
|The given platform + browser combination does not exist.|
|Web browser||Internet Explorer 6 SP1 or later||Internet Explorer 7||Internet Explorer 8 and 9||Internet Explorer 10||Internet Explorer 11||Firefox||Safari||Chrome||Edge||Opera|
|Windows 11||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||None, since Firefox 52||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
|Windows 10||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||5||None, since Firefox 52||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
Windows Server 2012 or later
|N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||5||None, since Firefox 52||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
|Windows 8||N/A||N/A||N/A||5||N/A||None, since Firefox 52||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
Windows Server 2008 R2
|N/A||N/A||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||5||5||None, since Firefox 52||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
Windows Server 2008
|N/A||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||N/A||N/A||1, 2, 3, 4, 5[note 1]||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||N/A||None|
Windows Server 2003
|1, 2, 3, 4||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||1, 2, 3, 4, 5||N/A||N/A||1, 2, 3, 4, 5[note 1]||1, 2||None, since Chrome 45||N/A||None|
|Windows 2000 |
|2, 3, 4||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||None||2||N/A||N/A||None|
|macOS (Intel)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||None, since Firefox 52||None, since Safari 12||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
|Ubuntu Linux||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||None, since Firefox 52||N/A||None, since Chrome 45||None||None|
Support for Opera had been promised since May 3, 2007, when David Storey, the Chief Web Opener at Opera, revealed a Microsoft poster for MIX conference that had shown Opera integration as a part of Silverlight 1.1. However, Opera was never officially supported by Silverlight.
On Linux and FreeBSD, the functionality was available via Moonlight and Pipelight, though both projects have since been discontinued. Moonlight is available for the major Linux distributions, with support for Firefox, Konqueror, and Opera browsers, provided it was obtained through Novell.Miguel de Icaza has expressed an interest in working with developers from other operating systems (BSD, Solaris) and other browsers (Konqueror, WebKit and Opera) to ensure that Moonlight works fine on their systems. Availability of Moonlight version 1.0 for FreeBSD was announced in March 2009, but has since been reported not to actually work. As of 2011[update], the current version of Moonlight (4 Preview 1) does not officially work on new versions of Firefox (newer than 3.x) on Linux-based operating systems. However, it can be installed in an unofficial way (for example using the Add-on Compatibility Reporter add-on) and with Firefox 11 it works correctly when installed. As noted above, the Moonlight project was abandoned in May 2012.
A browser plugin named Pipelight used to provide Silverlight access. Pipelight requires browser support for NPAPI plugins, which newer versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Opera have dropped. As of 2018, the Pipelight project has been discontinued.
Silverlight was not available on Android or iOS, the most prevalent operating systems on the mobile market.
Silverlight was the primary development environment for Windows Phone (that is by now discontinued) and is based on Silverlight 4. For previous versions of Windows Mobile, the first Community Technology Preview (CTP) for Windows Mobile 6 was expected in the second quarter of 2008, but it still has not been officially announced. Microsoft has stopped focusing on bringing Silverlight to Windows Mobile 6.x.Nokia announced plans to make Silverlight for Mobile available for S60 on Symbian OS, as well as for Series 40 devices and Nokia internet tablets (while it later sold the business to Microsoft and now sells Android tablets and will sell Alcatel-Lucent branded smartphones). Silverlight for Mobile supports Silverlight 2 content and .NET languages. Silverlight for Windows Phone 7.5 is based on Silverlight 4.
See also: XAP (file format)
Silverlight applications could be written in any .NET programming language. As such, any development tools which can be used with .NET languages can work with Silverlight, provided they can target the Silverlight CoreCLR for hosting the application, instead of the .NET Framework CLR. Microsoft has positioned Microsoft Expression Blend as a companion tool to Visual Studio for the design of Silverlight User Interface applications. Visual Studio can be used to develop and debug Silverlight applications. To create Silverlight projects and let the compiler target CoreCLR, Visual Studio requires the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio.
A Silverlight control is a ZIP format file with extension .XAP containing a list of one or more .NET managed assemblies (.DLL files) along with the AppManifest.XAML file containing this list along with the entry point (class and assembly). It can be hosted in any HTML file using an object tag, for example:
A Silverlight project contains the Silverlight.js and CreateSilverlight.js files which initializes the Silverlight plug-in for use in HTML pages, a XAML file for the UI, and code-behind files for the application code. Silverlight applications are debugged in a manner similar to ASP.NET applications. Visual Studio's CLR Remote Cross Platform Debugging feature can be used to debug Silverlight applications running on a different platform as well.
In conjunction with the release of Silverlight 2, Eclipse was added as a development tool option.
An April 2007 PC World report, suggested that Microsoft intended to release certain parts of Silverlight source code as open source software, but a week later Sam Ramji, director of platform technology strategy at Microsoft, contradicted the rumors by confirming that the company had no plans to open Silverlight. Some controls that ship with Silverlight are available under the Microsoft Public License as a part of a separate project known as the Silverlight Toolkit.
Silverlight's proprietary nature is a concern to competition since it may harm the open nature of the World Wide Web. Advocates of free software are also concerned Silverlight could be another example of Microsoft's embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy. Both Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash are proprietary. Flash's file formats are publicly documented standards, as are Silverlight's. Silverlight, like other web technologies, uses patent-encumbered audio and video codecs.
Mono Moonlight implementation
Main article: Moonlight (runtime)
The Mono Team abandoned development of Moonlight, a free and open-source implementation of both the Silverlight 1 and 2 runtimes. Development was discontinued in 2012 due to the poor acceptance of Silverlight and the restrictions imposed by Microsoft.
The project had been officially supported by Microsoft which, under an agreement with Novell, made not-publicly-available additional specifications, access to the Silverlight Base Class Library APIs, binary codecs and test cases available to the Mono team.
The "covenant" under which Novell was granted this exclusive access also specified conditions incompatible with the licensing that covers most free and open source software. As examples, it specifically required that the software must have been "obtained directly from Novell or through an Intermediate Recipient" and that it must be "not licensed under GPLv3 or a Similar License". Some free software proponents criticized the covenant.
Silverlight was criticized for not living up to its cross-platform operating system compatibility promises, especially on Linux systems, compared to its extensive support on Apple and Microsoft desktops for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Although Microsoft was officially collaborating on the Moonlight project, Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems, which sells the competing proprietary Flash platform, questioned "the commitment of Microsoft to keep the Silverlight platform compatible with other OS besides Windows". His concerns are based on "examples from history" where he said that Microsoft had launched products with promises of ongoing cross-platform compatibility that no longer apply, for example Internet Explorer for UNIX and Windows Media Player for Mac.
Relationship to existing web standards
In 2007, California and several other U.S. states asked a district judge to extend most of Microsoft's antitrust case settlement for another five years, citing "a number of concerns, including the fear that Microsoft could use the next version of Windows to 'tilt the playing field' toward Silverlight, its new Adobe Flash competitor," says a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. The final judgment on the motion extended the settlement two years, to November 2009, but for reasons unrelated to Silverlight.
Main article: Microsoft Silverlight version history
- Silverlight 1 – Silverlight 1, developed under the codename Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E) was released in 2007. It consisted of the core presentation framework, which is responsible for the user interface (UI), interactivity and user input, basic UI controls, graphics and animation, media playback, Digital rights management (DRM), and DOM integration.
- Silverlight 2 – Included a version of the .NET Framework and implemented the same full Common Language Runtime (CLR) version as .NET Framework 3.0, so it can execute programs written in any .NET language.
- Silverlight 3 – Silverlight 3 was announced on September 12, 2008, and unveiled at MIX09 in Las Vegas on March 18, 2009. A beta version was made available for download the same day. The final version was released July 9, 2009. Silverlight 3 included more controls—including DataGrid, TreeView, various layout panels, DataForm for forms-driven applications and DataPager for viewing paginated data.
- Silverlight 4 – On November 18, 2009, at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft Corporation unveiled a Beta version of Silverlight 4. The final version was released on April 15, 2010 (along with Silverlight 4 tools for developers). New features in Silverlight 4 include: support for Google's Chrome browser, webcam and microphone, printing, more mouse support, new notification support to send messages to users, new and enhanced controls (e.g., RichTextBox, DataGrid), theming of controls, rendering HTML, better localization, etc.
- Silverlight 5 – The final version was made available to download on December 9, 2011. New features included GPU-accelerated video decoding, 3D graphics, playback speed controls, remote control, and 64-bit support.
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Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of Microsoft .NET–based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web.
Compelling cross-platform user experiences
- Deliver media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web that incorporate video, animation, interactivity, and stunning user interfaces.
- Seamless, fast installation for users, thanks to a small, on-demand, easy-to-install plug-in that is under 2 megabyte (MB) in size and works with all leading browsers.
- Consistent experiences between Windows-based and Macintosh computers without any additional installation requirements.
- Create richer, more compelling Web experiences that take greater advantage of the client for increased performance.
- Stunning vector-based graphics, media, text, animation, and overlays that enable seamless integration of graphics and effects into any existing Web application.
- Enhance existing standards/AJAX-based applications with richer graphics and media and improve their performance and capabilities by using Silverlight.
Flexible programming model with collaborative tools
- Based on the Microsoft .NET Framework, Silverlight enables developers and designers to easily use existing skills and tools to deliver media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web.
Role-specific tools for both designers and developers that take advantage of Web standards and the breadth of the Microsoft .NET–connected software features.
For designers: Microsoft Expression Studio for creating interactive user interfaces and media rich experiences, preparing media for encoding and distribution, and creating World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards-compliant sites using modern XHTML, XML, XSLT, CSS, and ASP.NET.
For developers: Microsoft Visual Studio for developing client and server code with full Microsoft IntelliSense, powerful cross-platform debugging, rich language support, and more.
Consistent presentation model by using XAML, the declarative presentation language used in Windows Vista–based applications. Controls, visual designs, media, and other elements can be presented with full design fidelity in both Silverlight and Windows–based applications.
- Extensible control model makes it easy to add rich content and behaviors while enabling efficient code-reuse and sharing.
- Dramatically improved performance for AJAX–enabled Web sites with the power, performance, and flexibility of Silverlight and .NET-connected software.
Efficient, lower cost of delivery, and more capable media solution
- Unified media format that scales from high definition (HD) to mobile with Windows Media Video (WMV), the Microsoft implementation of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) VC-1 video standard, as well as support for Windows Media Audio (WMA) and MP3 audio.
- Add vector-based graphics and overlays to media with support for integration of graphics that scale to any size and broadcast-style overlays for tickers and closed captioning.
- Flexible ad-insertion solutions with video and animation, including the ability to deliver fluid, broadcast-style video or animated advertisements without loss of visual fidelity or motion quality.
- Lower-cost media streaming with Emmy Award–winning Windows Media technologies that can lower the cost of streaming delivery by up to 46%, and enjoy the flexibility to work with your existing Windows Media streaming deployments. Even further cost reductions are possible with the upcoming Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) Media Pack for Windows Server Code Name “Longhorn.”
- Broad ecosystem of media tools, servers, and solutions compatible with the Windows Media operating system.
- Microsoft PlayReady content-access technology that delivers a single solution for digital rights management support on both Windows-based and Macintosh computers for content providers (coming in Fall 2007).
- Powerful encoding tools for live and on-demand publishing of media experiences with Microsoft Expression Media Encoder, including hardware-accelerated encoding of WMV and VC-1 at up to 15 times the performance of software alone when paired with a Tarari Encoder Accelerator board.
Connected to Web, servers, and services
- Easily mash-up and incorporate services and data from anywhere on the Web by taking advantage of the Silverlight support for LINQ and LINQ-to-XML while accessing that data with common protocols like JSON, RSS, POX, and REST.
- Increase discoverability of rich interactive application (RIA) content that can be indexed and searched due to the text-based XAML format that describes interface and content in a Silverlight-based application.
- Rapidly scale applications with Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live to host and integrate software services and media content.
Download notes: * Alternatively you can download the latest beta version of this software.
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Also Available: Download Silverlight for Mac
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