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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Silverlight and Ajax

I’m glad to see that the CLR story for Silverlight (aka WPF/E) has made it out.  There was much discussion about this at the recent Microsoft ISV CTO Summit.  Scott Guthrie let us know at the time that there would be announcements at MIX07 as there have been.

Silverlight really is a game changer.  It pushes the very compelling managed code and XAML stories into the browser.

At the Summit someone asked how Ajax (and ASP.NET AJAX Extensions) fits in with the WPF/E strategy.  The answer (from the ASP.NET AJAX guy) was something to the effect of “they are solutions to two different problems”.

Certainly this is true.  I put it a little differently:

  • Silverlight is a new way of deploying apps on the Web while leveraging the existing .NET tooling and languages.  It is an entire development platform and strategy for building rich applications in a browser.  It provides an OS and browser independent story (albeit limited on day one).
  • Ajax is a set of techniques to create dynamic HTML.  Basically this is to force dynamic Web applications into the browser.  Ajax (and HTML/XHTML/CSS for that matter) is notoriously browser dependent.  Much Ajax work is made more painful because of browser-specific hacks.  In addition, building extensible and maintainable Ajax is extremeley difficult.

So, one is a new way of building web apps with killer toolking.

The other is a way of building web apps with killer hacks.

Which would you rather build, deploy, support, and maintain?

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    Shannon Whitley wrote @ May 4th, 2007 at 6:37 pm

I love the idea of using .NET tools to write client code, but I’m still suffering flashbacks (pun not intended) to my early adoption of Flash 9.0. I released my new Adobe Flex app just after 9.0 was released and everybody had to download the new version of Flash. It didn’t go smoothly. I turned off a lot of new users, possibly for good. I had to rewrite the app in Ajax to get the Mac people off my back. It was a nightmare.

It looks like Microsoft may be getting this one right. From what I’ve seen, the download is pretty quick and easy. Automated updates should save everyone a lot of headaches (as long as newer versions don’t break my code…hmmm). We will be very dependent on one piece of proprietary code, but that’s not so different than our dependence on the OS today.

Someone made a comment about Microsoft having to make sure that Silverlight supported Mac or the “Mac Fanboys” would tear them apart. It’s true. I already experienced it. So they’ve done a great job if Macs are well supported.

To be honest, I can’t test on all of the OS flavors out there. If my Ajax code runs well on a Linux box, then I got lucky. So if Microsoft can support Mac and Windows with Silverlight, it sounds like a great option and I won’t be any worse off than I am today.

    Jim Benson wrote @ May 5th, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Just wait until you want to do some data binding….

    Robert W. Anderson wrote @ May 7th, 2007 at 8:38 am

Jim, the Cooperative .NET Skeptic,

I suppose you mean that the data-binding story is different between .NET 3.0 WPF and .NET 3.5 Silverlight (since the latter relies on LINQ for data access).

I never said it would be trivial to develop a single app for both the browser and desktop; software is hard.

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