Silverlight vs. Flash: The Winner is…Consumers!

By  |  Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 9:51 pm

At Microsoft’s MIX conference today, the company Silverlight 3.0,  a new version of its rich-media Web plug-in, that includes new multimedia capabilities that aim to it to parity with Adobe Flash, it can now run applications offline as well, as Adobe’a AIR can. Adobe will doubtlessly respond by improving both Flash and AIR, continuing its leapfrog race with Microsoft.

When Microsoft introduced Silverlight 2.0, it stripped out many of the advanced graphics capabilities found in Silverlight’s predecessor, the .NET Framework’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Adobe responded by giving Flash Player custom effects and filters as well as GPU hardware acceleration in an attempt to differentiate its platform.

Microsoft must have been taking notes. Silverlight 3 uses hardware graphics acceleration and includes support for 3D effects. Those features can be used for viewing up high definition video or even to jazz up business applications. It also reaches outside of the browser, and is cross platform for Windows and Mac (Mono Moonlight, a Linux version, is progressing more slowly).

Let’s be realistic: Flash continues to dominate the Rich Internet Application space. However, Microsoft is now concentrating so much of its resources on Silverlight that there’s no way Adobe can regard it as anything other than a real threat to Flash’s pervasiveness. I say, let the two companies have at it. The Web applications that developers create using either platform will be more powerful and provide consumers with better, more useful, and more entertaining experiences.


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21 Comments For This Post

  1. U Says:

    The Winner is…Consumers? Doubt it very much.

    I doubt it. Both technologies are closed, proprietary and go against the openness of the web. The looser, in both cases, is the consumer, the more this technologies are in use, the less options we have to decide when, where and how to use content delivered this way.

  2. David Worthington Says:

    Adobe has already put ActionScript out there. I have a suspicion that it may take Flash down the PDF route and open source aspects of it in response to Microsoft. It also needs some better tooling… i.e. an Eclipse project.

  3. David Worthington Says:

    Also in so far as Silverlight being closed… I’d have to disagree. Mono Moonlight is an open source implementation. Microsoft is providing the Moonlight team with CLR test cases etc, free licenses for its codecs, and gives them access to its engineers. Microsoft has helped port Silverlight to Linux.

  4. U Says:

    You better look again. Silverlight’s spec is under ms’ control. This alone puts any implemetation in an inferior position, playing catchingup. Also, of course, is the patents issue. Novell cross-licenses and has been given information it can not share with others. OSS has zero interest in making silvelight available where ms does not. Adobe opened some, but it’s still a pain depending on this annoyances. There’s HTML 5 for many things that silverlight and flash provide.

  5. Carlos Says:

    So I am helping in developing an application in Silverlight. Nice product with some limitations but some cool functionality abilities. HOWEVER, MSN, Microsoft’s own website uses Flash for all of it’s interactives, video and audio players. How are we supposed to trust in a product that the company who made it won’t even implement on its own website????????

  6. U Says:

    I can’t see why having “cool” features is an objective by itself. MS’ invented C# to kill Java, by jusy making sure there a “new cool” language out there, that will attract some developers. They are doing it again with Silverlight (MS, as always, could have joined the efforts to enrich and quickly implement HTML 5, or at least improving standards support in IE).

    Not that HTML 5 can do everything in Silverlight, but in many cases it is simply not necessary, the same way Flash has been abused.

  7. CaliforniaSuperLoto Says:

    having to install a a plug in for both is not something that help the middle user.

  8. David Worthington Says:

    HTML 5 will not be finalized for a long time, but pieces of it may be (like video). The TC members told me that they wanted to bust it up into sub specs last time I spoke with them.

    I agree about Mono paying catch up – I was just making a counterpoint. But Miguel will tell anyone that listens that Microsoft had been very cooperative.

    Ultimately, it is Microsoft that’s driving, and your point about ‘openness’ is valid. There’s just a bit of a grey area too.

  9. tom b Says:

    1) Consumers wish BOTH CPU-sucking Flash AND CPU-sucking Silverlight would go away.

    2) Silverlight will see far less use without Mac development tools, since most web dev is done on Macs.

    3) MSFT has no Mojo anymore, under Ballmer. C# is a distant competitor to Java, which, itself has issues. IBM just BOUGHT Sun, BTW, so don’t expect C# to make any further headway at this point.

    4) web standards matter. MSFT has a poor track record and is not trustworthy. Adobe, on the other hand, has never been convicted of any antitrust violations.

  10. David Worthington Says:

    There is Eclipse-based tooling for Silverlight development on Mac.

  11. Jeff Says:

    Normally I’d say great. Competition is good. However this Microsoft. Nothing good could come from that. Worse case scenario is Microsoft with all it marketing expertise gets a majority of sites on board. Then it’s goodbye Flash, goodbye competition, hello monopoly, hello viruses, hello bugs.
    No thanks.
    I won’t be installing Silverlight on ANY computer I own.

  12. KK Says:

    Silverlight will dominate, flash can never match it, actionscript is for script kiddies IMO.
    HTML 5 lacks innovation, a video tag, wow, i’m not impressed!
    Google has fast javascript engine but yet again, c# is superior language to write programs. Java FX will fail (or has it already?). In the end MS will own the whole web unless someone come up with something very cool.

  13. Mike Says:

    Silverlight will simply own Flash. If you are developer, do yourself a favor:

    1. go to (install Silverlight 😉
    2. jump to 69:00 (notify how fast video buffering gets done)
    3. and just hear talk about video in Silverlight 3…

    After that, if you like what you hear, watch whole keynote… it’s simply impressive to see what is Microsoft doing lately in-house.

  14. Airvay Says:

    Mike, you must be kidding. Yes you can jump to 69, but while the sound is there, the video is still a long way away.

  15. Wow... Says:


    I just lol’d..

  16. Leif Says:

    OK Mike, I tried your video test and well… Two minutes and 5 seconds worth of buffering later the video resumed. I tested my connection speed with and returned 26473 kbps download speed and 1599 kbps upload speed. Have to say, not a problem with my connection. I’m a developer and I’m sticking with Flash

  17. Link Starbureiy Says:

    @ tom b — listen to this guy, “..most web dev is done on Macs.” Since when? It would be best for Google is they just stop blocking Microsoft in the file format space, and let users upload both Silverlight and .xps applications; they’re superior technologies.

  18. RobC Says:

    I been using AS for about 3 years, and i mainly use it for developing User Interfaces along with PHP (Hail Flex!), so im certainly not against silverlight but i dont see why should i change. I believe, most of the posts lack of an objective viewpoint. Good for the C# developers, but lets remember, flash is also big time a designers tool. Both not only focus on the programming side, so how about compatibility between design tools with Adobe?, should is start using MS Paint???.

    I certainly believe that this is just another fight like Win vs Linux. For the sake of compatibility i would stay with Flash, and i will until MS doesnt come with something really astonishing that Flash cant achieve in the short run. After all, we cannot just be bouncing between languages just because of a new version.

    Every professional will agree that the learning curve weather is open source or not, short or long, at the end cost us time and therefore money.

    So how about some objective points?.

    P.S. Give a hammer and a chiesel to an artist and it will build an statue, give it to a construction worker and will take down a building. It all narrows down to what we need to achieve.

  19. BillyK Says:

    Silverlight won’t be more then a tiny blip on Flash’s radar. The reason why is easy to see. For the consumers but more importantly the developer / design world to accept a new platform means there needs to be a significant incentive.

    Example: Flash became the defacto rich media platform because before it there was none. It was excepted because to have the level of animation, interaction and graphic experience flash was the only real option.

    Silverlight is entering too late in the game with too little an incentive. Also don’t forget that flash makes leaps and bounds every few years itself.

    [enter the silverlight trolls]

  20. Steve Says:

    BillyK you’re ignoring the huge community of c# developers like myself.

    I’ve never really used flash due to the fact I’ve not had time to start learning action script but I’ve been able to pick up silverlight very quickly due to my .Net background.

    I think the only issue silverlight has is getting to a wide enough audiance due to the plug-in. At present I’m only using Silverlight for intranet apps but given time MS will have a wide enough pressence to make silverlight a viable alternative to flash obn the web.

    I’m an MS developer as stated from classic asp to .net c#. For years I’ve seen Flash as a useful tool to incoporate into websites (with the help of others). It’s about time Flash developers saw Silverlight as a real competitor rather than fearfully dismissing it.

  21. George Says:

    As an end-user [notDEV] I was upset to see a dialogue box insisting I download ‘Silverlight.’ When I said ‘no’ I got another dialogue box saying I could be putting my computer at risk! MS has a pretty powerful soapbox to invade everyone who is not wary of their wiles.