Why Silverlight Is Important

silverlightlogo.pngThe announcements around Microsoft’s new Silverlight platform yesterday were important to anyone who is thinking about where the web will evolve. For those of us watching the demos at the Mix conference the immediate importance of it was apparent – Silverlight will be the platform of choice for developers who build rich Internet applications. It makes Flash/Flex look like an absolute toy. After the keynote, the main topic of conversation in the hallways centered on just how effectively Microsoft carried out its execution of Adobe.

We didn’t cover the news as it broke – I was on stage at Mix and Nik Cubrilovic was denied a press pass due to a mixup and got in very late. There was a lot of early coverage but mostly from journalists who hadn’t been properly briefed on it or who rushed to post quickly.

In preparation for the Mix Q&A, Nik and I had well over 10 hours of briefing on Silverlight, with very senior Microsoft employees (Ray Ozzie, Scott Guthrie, Charles Fitzgerlad) as well as members of the product team that actually build Silverlight (Keith Smith and Brian Goldfarb).

Nik wrote a very long post yesterday afternoon on Silverlight, long after the initial news broke. From a pageview standpoint, the post was a loser for us. We would have been far better off doing a one-paragraph post at 10 am announcing the news, and by the time we wrote in the late afternoon the buzz had worn off somewhat.

I’m glad we waited to write. Nik (a long-time developer) was most impressed by how small Silverlight is (4 MB) and how fast it is (it blows away native Javascript routines – without exaggeration, Ajax looks like a bicycle next to a Ferrari when compared to Silverlight).

The news today about Silverlight is significantly more thoughtful. Microsoft-hater Steve Gillmor gives it a thumbs up and says “the engineering behind this is stunning.” Robert Scoble, who’s angry at Microsoft for not giving him a free pass to the Mix event, says “Microsoft “rebooted the Web” yesterday.” The list goes on.

If you are a developer or an entrepreneur, take a look at Silverlight, download some of the sample applications, and take the time to understand how it can affect your product. Our overview post is here, and our podcast interview with the product manager who built it is here.

Some of the most interesting new web applications will be built on this platform.