Why Silverlight May Be on Its Deathbed
Questions of whether or not Silverlight would continue to be a Microsoft offering were raised as early as October of 2010, when speakers at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference conspicuously failed to mentioned anything about the product. While a 2011 version of Silverlight was released, no new versions have even been announced since.
In the last two years a number of major platforms using Silverlight decided to abandon ship. This includes government agencies and, more recently, the movie-streaming service Netflix. While Netflix has yet to transition away, the official departure of this major name may well be a death-knell for Silverlight.
Microsoft has yet to make an official statement on the future of Silverlight, but their silence and the lack of updates are causing more and more partners to pull away. Indeed, one of the few major platforms that still taps into Silverlight is SharePoint itself.
The Future of Silverlight in SharePoint
In SharePoint 2010, Silverlight was used for many segments of the UI and was touted as one of the major offerings of that release. Most significantly, many of the most popular and successful web parts (both from Microsoft and from third-party creators) relied on Silver light.
SharePoint 2013 has taken a different route, and while it’s possible to deploy Silverlight web parts, the primary elements of the UI have been built in HTML 5. This particular transition shouldn’t be too surprising; while it was not in a discussion about Silverlight itself, Dean Hachamovitch—Microsoft’s project manager for Internet Explorer—called HTML 5 “the future of the web.”
For web part developers, switching over to HTML 5 will be an important step in the coming months and years. This will be especially true if and when Microsoft officially abandons Silverlight, creating a potential for security gaps in any remaining Silverlight elements. Users and admins, meanwhile, will need to transition into SharePoint 2013 and away from Silverlight web parts if and when that abandonment happens.
While it may not be significant for the average SharePoint user, the retirement of Silverlight is also a way of bowing to the Google-supported vision of the web. This shouldn’t be seen as Google winning a battle in the war for enterprise clients, however: While Google does offer limited enterprise content management services, it’s not even close to competing with Microsoft. That said, relinquishing proprietary software may become relevant in the years to come as Google and Microsoft continue to battle in their various competing divisions.
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