Flash vs. Silverlight: What Suits Your Needs Best?

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With the release of Silverlight 1.0 and its subsequent versions, a debate started among designers and developers regarding choosing between Flash and Silverlight. Silverlight faces difficulties in capturing the market because of the maturity of Flash. However, Silverlight has managed to keep up by including certain features that designers and developers have always wanted to see in Flash, such as search engine optimization. In this article, we will discuss some of the technical differences between Flash and Silverlight to help you choose the technology that best suits your needs.

Animation

Flash uses the frame-based animation model. In frame-by-frame animation, we create an object for each frame to produce an animation sequence. For example, if you want to move something across the screen in 3 seconds, calculate how many frames 3 seconds will take, then calculate the matrices required for each frame along the way. Keep in mind that the player won’t actually maintain a frame rate unless you embed a blank audio track; otherwise, 3 seconds might turn out to be 2 or 6 or 5.

Adobe Flash Animation1

Silverlight is based on the WPF animation model, which is time-based instead of frame-based, so you define the start and end conditions, and it figures out how to do it. No need to deal with matrices like with Flash. Also, no need to calculate the positions of objects in various frames.

Microsoft Silverlight Animation2

File Size

Flash uses a compressed format, and text and images are embedded in the movie, hence the file size of a Flash component is relatively small.

Text representation in Adobe Flash3

Silverlight uses XAML for its description language, and it is non-compressed, so the size of a Silverlight component is usually larger.

Text representation in Microsoft Silverlight4

Scripting

ActionScript is used to program Flash objects. ActionScript is an object-oriented language with a full range of controls for designing user interfaces. And it can be integrated with back-end technologies that use other languages and frameworks, such as PHP, ASP and Ruby On Rails. It comes with a huge, powerful class library for developing online browser-hosted applications and stand-alone desktop applications.

Action Script5

For Silverlight scripting, you can choose from among a number of programming languages such as Visual C#.Net and Visual Basic.Net, including client-side scripting with JavaScript. C# and VB.NET can be used to write managed code that runs on and uses all of the enhancements and capabilities of Microsoft’s .NET framework.

Visual Basic6

Video And Audio

Flash supports multiple video formats. The latest codec is very high quality, and the bandwidth usage is nice. There is one problem, though: if you create a tool that outputs Flash content, the formats it supports aren’t really used by anyone else. The original video codec, Sorenson’s proprietary H.263 implementation, is a mutant version of H.263. The compression follows the spec fairly closely, but a bunch of features were left out, and you can’t exactly just go find complete specs on how to build your own encoder.

Video Codec7

Silverlight implements the industry-standard VC-1 codec for video, and supports WMV and WMA. Just about everyone already has Windows Movie Maker, but if someone doesn’t, it’s not a big deal because Microsoft makes available a free SDK encoder for producing WMA and WMV. So, not only would you be using formats that people would more likely be able to encode themselves, but Microsoft provides your product with SDKs if you want to do the encoding yourself.

Sound Processing

ActionScript offers a set of sound classes that can be used to generate and control sound in a movie. You can add sounds from the library while the movie clip is playing and control those sounds. If you do not specify a target when you create a new sound object, there are methods to control sound for the whole movie.

Sound Processing8

Silverlight doesn’t have the low-level audio APIs you would need to write an audio application in the browser. It doesn’t even support playback of WAV files because .NET has very little audio playback support.

Accessibility

Flash provides rich accessibility features for those who have hearing and vision problems or who rely on keyboard shortcuts. Providing captions for video solves accessibility challenges for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, but people who are blind or have low vision or other physical disabilities need the video playback controls to be keyboard-accessible and to function properly with assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. Users who rely on keyboard access can use a variety of familiar shortcuts to control video. Buttons such as “Play/Pause,” “Stop,” “Rewind,” “Mute” and “Closed Captions” can be tabbed to and activated with the spacebar. Slider controls such as for volume and playhead position controls can be accessed via the arrow keys, and the “Home” and “End” keys can be used to skip directly to the beginning or end of a range. The volume slider also accepts numeric keys to set playback audio levels in one quick step.

Accessibility9

Accessibility10

Accessibility11

Silverlight 3 is the first browser plug-in to provide access to all system colors, allowing people with partial vision to use familiar operating system controls to make changes, such as switching to high-contrast color schemes for ease of readability. These features are far fewer than those provided by Flash.

Platform Compatibility

Flash supports Windows Vista/XP/2000, Windows Server 2003/2008, Mac OS 10.1/10.5 (PowerPC), Mac OS 10.1/10.5 (Intel), Linux 5, openSUSE 11, Ubuntu 7.10 or later and Solaris 10.

Silverlight supports only Windows Vista/XP/2000, Windows Server 2003/2008, Windows Mobile 6, Mac OS 10.1/10.5 (PowerPC) and Mac OS 10.1/10.5 (Intel). Because Linux and Solaris support is missing, users of those operating systems won’t be able to experience Silverlight on their machines.

Text Representation/SEO

Flash stores fonts using shape definitions and the player doesn’t understand TTF, hence we cannot separate the text layer from the movie. Typically the text written on a flash component was not SEO friendly however Adobe has made the modifications to Flash so that it will be indexable, and the search engines have begun to index Flash.

Currently Google is the only search engine that is noticeably reading Flash files. They have worked closely with Adobe to develop the right toolset for the Googlebot in order to read the files for indexing. Yahoo is working on it and MSN is working with their own format, Silverlight, so they probably won’t be developing the toolset necessary to read Flash files.

To read more about how to make Flash SEO friendly, please read the following articles:

In Silverlight applications, user interfaces are declared in XAML and programmed using a subset of the .NET Framework. XAML can be used for marking up the vector graphics and animations. Text is deployed on web server as separate entity and can be read and accessed separately. Textual content created with Silverlight is searchable and indexable by search engines as it is not compiled, but represented as text (XAML).

Supported Image Formats

Flash supports almost all image formats.

Silverlight supports only PNG and JPEG file formats. Some other file formats are supported by Silverlight but in a limited way. A full list can be found here14.

Socket Programming

The XMLSocket object implements client sockets that allow computers running the Flash player to communicate with a server computer identified by an IP address or domain name.

To use the XMLSocket object, the server computer must run a daemon that understands the protocol used by the XMLSocket object. The protocol is as follows:

  • XML messages are sent over a full-duplex TCP/IP stream socket connection.
  • Each XML message is a complete XML document, terminated by a zero byte.
  • An unlimited number of XML messages can be sent and received over a single XMLSocket connection.

Socket Programming with Flash15

Silverlight doesn’t support socket programming. Silverlight supports sockets programming through the System.Net.Sockets namespace. Silverlight supports asynchronously sending data back and forth across a socket over ports ranging from 4502 to 4534. Silverlight supports cross-domain socket communications between a Silverlight application and any server, provided that a special security policy file is in place on the server.

Webcam Support

Flash has webcam16 and microphone support for live video and audio transmission, and using them is really easy in Flash. It takes only a few lines of ActionScript code to invoke the camera object17.

Camera.get18 Returns a default or specified camera object, or null if the camera is not available.
Camera.setMode19 Sets aspects of the camera capture mode, including height, width and frames per second.
Camera.setMotionLevel20 Specifies how much motion is required to invoke Camera.onActivity(true) and how much time should elapse without motion before Camera.onActivity(false) is invoked.

Silverlight doesn’t support webcam or microphone.

Deployment

The Flash deployment package contains only a single Shockwave (SWF) file, and all images, text and animations are incorporated in this file. Because of the compressed nature of a Flash component, its images and text are not indexed by search engines, and thus not searchable.

The deployment process of Silverlight is far more complex; all individual components need to be deployed separately. The following components typically get sent to the client for each Web request of Silverlight:

  • XML files,
  • DLL files (if necessary),
  • Silverlight.js file,
  • Any other JavaScript file,
  • Resources (images, audio, video).

Silverlight Deployment21

Read the full documentation22 on Silverlight deployment.

Windows Application

A Flash movie can be compiled into a Windows application and run as a standalone EXE file. It can also be played on a desktop that has an appropriate Flash player.

Flash EXE Builder

Silverlight doesn’t support playing the movie as a Windows application.

Media Streaming

Flash provides no such service to host the content and application with them. Thus, building a video website with Flash is not as cost-effective as building one with Silverlight.

Microsoft Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live is a companion service for Silverlight that makes it easy for developers and designers to deliver rich media as part of their Silverlight applications. The service allows Web designers and developers to host and stream cross-browser media and interactive applications that run on both Windows and Mac. This service can be combined with Microsoft Expression Studio and other third-party tools to create and develop interactive contents.

Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live is currently in beta testing and offers 10 GB of free hosting for rich-media applications.

Microsoft Silverlight Streaming23

Conclusion

Selecting the right technology for rich Internet applications is often critical, and choosing between Flash and Silverlight depends entirely on your requirements. If you expect that some of your users will be on Linux or Solaris, then you should go with Flash. If you want your website to be indexed by search engines, then Silverlight may be better.

Besides, as Doug S. is points out in the comments, it’s worth noticing that a minority of web users actually have a Silverlight plugin installed on their machine, while most users do have Flash-support. The Flash Player 9 and higher support streaming of the H.264 video codec which means anyone with a video program that can output an MP4 can stream to Flash. There are literally hundreds of free apps on Mac, PC and Linux that can do this. It’s also important to mention that the latest version of Flash Player supports 3D rendering while Silverlight does not and that SWF, FLA, FLV, and AS are all open-standard formats, while Silverlight is 100% proprietary.

The following table summarizes the features discussed above. Rather than including arrows to indicate whether each platform has a particular feature, we’ve simply marked “better” to show the areas in which each technology beats out the other.

Features Flash Silverlight
Animation better
File size better
Scripting better
Video/Audio better
Sound processing better
Accessibility better
Platform compatibility better
Text representation/SEO better
Supported image formats better
Socket programming better
Webcam support better
Deployment better
Windows application better
Media streaming better

Further Resources

The following articles are suggested for further reading:

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.webdesigndev.com
  2. 2 http://blogs.conchango.com/
  3. 3 http://wareseeker.com/
  4. 4 http://www.microsoft.com
  5. 5 http://actionscript.org/
  6. 6 http://joymon.googlepages.com/
  7. 7 http://technet.microsoft.com
  8. 8 http://www.prepresstraining.com/
  9. 9 http://lh5.ggpht.com/_D_LHhy5fi8o/SUQhlbxnK2I/AAAAAAAAADA/E34em8f43fw/WhistlerBlue_thumb.png
  10. 10 http://lh5.ggpht.com/_D_LHhy5fi8o/SUQhlbxnK2I/AAAAAAAAADA/E34em8f43fw/WhistlerBlue_thumb.png
  11. 11 http://lh5.ggpht.com/_D_LHhy5fi8o/SUQhlbxnK2I/AAAAAAAAADA/E34em8f43fw/WhistlerBlue_thumb.png
  12. 12 http://www.hochmanconsultants.com/articles/seo-friendly-flash.shtml
  13. 13 http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/google-learns-to-crawl-flash.html
  14. 14 http://www.accusoft.com/ig-silverlightformats.htm
  15. 15 http://www.adobe.com/
  16. 16 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYmYkMYGp5s
  17. 17 http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/action_scripts/actionscript_dictionary/actionscript_dictionary119.html
  18. 18 http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/action_scripts/actionscript_dictionary/actionscript_dictionary124.html
  19. 19 http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/action_scripts/actionscript_dictionary/actionscript_dictionary135.html
  20. 20 http://www.adobe.com/support/flash/action_scripts/actionscript_dictionary/actionscript_dictionary136.html
  21. 21 http://www.microsoft.com/
  22. 22 images/Silverlight_Deployment_Guide.doc
  23. 23 http://msdn.microsoft.com
  24. 24 http://www.learn-silverlight-tutorial.com/
  25. 25 http://silverlight.net/forums/t/3015.aspx
  26. 26 http://www.shinedraw.com/multimedia/flash-vs-silverlight-apply-theme-or-style/
  27. 27 http://dobbscodetalk.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=The-Flash-Silverlight-Fight.html&Itemid=29

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  1. 1

    You forgot to mention:

    1. Only about 10-30% of the web has Silverlight while 99.97% of the web has Flash 9 or higher.

    2. The Flash Player 9 and higher support streaming of the H.264 video codec which means anyone with a video program that can output an MP4 can stream to Flash. There are literally hundreds of free apps on Mac, PC and Linux that can do this.

    3. The latest version of Flash Player supports 3D rendering. Silverlight does not.

    4. SWF, FLA, FLV, and AS are all open-standard formats. Silverlight is 100% proprietary.

    5. Actionscript is based off the same root as javascript and AS 3.0 and javascript are extremely similar. Silverlight uses Windows-centric code languages that are meant for the desktop and are likely only to be known by desktop-app developers. Higher learning curve.

    Oh, and my personal favorite:
    6. Silverlight is Microsoft, Flash is Adobe. Say what you want, Adobe does right by the web whenever they can. Microsoft does not. Wouldn’t you rather go with the company who doesn’t go out of it’s way to make your life harder?

    3
  2. 2

    Because Linux and Solaris support is missing, users of those operating systems won’t be able to experience Silverlight on their machines.

    Sure, there is Moonlight Moonlight Project

    1
  3. 3

    Hi, great article.

    I will always be a flash supporter purely because I don’t like MS.

    It’s sods law that this article comes out a week after i had to hand in an article comparing flash and silverlight for uni…

    1
  4. 4

    Silverlight apps are literally zipped into .xap files, and tend to be about the same in size, if not smaller. There’s a guy who implements samples in both and compares… do a search.

    Silverlight does not use “scripts.” It’s a fully object-oriented platform.

    On what basis could you possibly describe Flash as “better” for socket programming? You don’t offer any reason. Silverlight has the entire System.Net.Sockets namespace of the regular .NET Framework, as well as System.Threading, something that Flash sorely lacks. Flash is horrible for dealing with asynchronicity.

    The only real arguments about which to use involve penetration rates and suitability for line-of-business apps. At 25% penetration, Silverlight is absolutely not suitable for use on home pages. But for writing UI intensive LOB apps, Silverlight is much better suited for the task. Beyond that, there are enough pros and cons for each that you use whichever one you know. Just remember that millions of .NET developers can dive into Silverlight pretty easily, which will only encourage its use.

    1
  5. 5

    Nice article, but…

    …you forgot something: to build Flash Applications, you need a large amount of money to buy Adobe Flash CS (1,2,3, or 4) to build them. For silverlight you don’t. That’s why I’m using silverlight.

    0
  6. 6

    Never even heard of Silverlight. Never will try or even use it.
    M$ sucks.

    -2
  7. 7

    Mats Taraldsvik

    May 9, 2009 7:07 am

    Regarding Platform Compability :

    What is “Linux 5″ ?

    Has the author looked into Mono and Moonlight – the Open Source implementation of the .NET stack and Silverlight, respectively? I think there is also support in MonoDevelop for creating Moonlight stuff.

    Mono runs on most platforms (BSD, Linux, Solaris, Mac, Windows.. ), including the Wii, iPhone and PS3. I’m sure Moonlight and Monodevelop will gain more cross-platform compability soon…

    mono-project.com

    1
  8. 8

    I agree with most of the article. Some of the comparisons are either already outdated or will become outdated with Silverlight 3. Silverlight 2 supports sockets. Silverlight 3 will include H.264 support, webcam support, 3d rendering support, and many other new features that will help it to get up to speed with Flash.

    My personal favorite: Silverlight is Microsoft. Programming Silverlight is fantastic. The millions of developers who do .Net can very easily learn to do Silverlight. Programming AS3 is terrible, with no unified IDE. People are quick to criticize Microsoft, but they are the most successful software company for a reason. Their development tools are unrivaled and their products are quite good. (I realize many designers are reading this and love their Macs, so please don’t attack me…)

    I like both products. They are competing in a large market and will co-exist side-by-side. I choose Silverlight when the programming will be complex and Flash when the graphical side of it is more complex. Competition will make both much better.

    1
  9. 9

    finally a non bias comparison.

    1
  10. 10

    Wearing a developer’s hat, I can’t help but note the missing enterprise perspective. We recently made a comparison of Silverlight 3 (can run standalone) and Flash/Flex with Adobe Air. We were quite surprised that when it comes to LOB (Line of Business) applications, Silverlight already crushes Flash completely. The most important factors of ours were:

    – Tool vendors from both ASP.NET and Windows Forms are making their move towards Silverlight. There’s already a broad range of high-quality commercial components available that cover common data visualization scenarios like grids, charting, reporting etc and the buzz is swarming with excitement – there’s a lot more to come.
    – What people tend to ignore: Silverlight has a more development-centric community. While Flash was and still is a designer’s tool, your typical senior .NET guy has a deeper understanding of software architecture and the development lifecycle. When it comes to the enterprise, this is a critical factor.
    – There’s an upgrade path to WPF where you have the full .NET framework with literally 10’000s of APIs at your disposal. Silverlight XAML is nearly a 100% compatible to WPF’s, so migration is not an issue.
    – Both Silverlight 3 and Flash (Air) can run as standalone tools (out of browser). Silverlight 2 currently doesn’t provide the feature, so it’s out of the picture.

    When it comes to your typical design-centric website, Flash would be the tool of my choice – the tools are just more mature and deployed runtimes are a crucial factor. But for the enterprise, this is a completely different game.

    Cheers,
    Philipp

    2
  11. 11

    Just a couple of other Silverlight facts worth mentioning:

    Languages – if you’re more into scripting languages than compiled ones such as C# and VB.NET, you can use IronRuby and IronPython to create SL apps: IronRuby and Silverlight

    You don’t need to pay for Visual Studio to use it to create Silverlight apps – Visual Studio Web Express (one of the free versions) works fine.

    And if you don’t want to use Visual Studio (or Windows), you can use the Eclipse plug-ins for Silverlight on your Mac: Silverlight with Eclipse

    1
  12. 12

    everonsoft.com

    May 9, 2009 6:30 am

    very nice article…. great work again…

    0
  13. 13

    Interesting article (although I only quickly scanned it)

    0
  14. 14

    “If you expect that some of your users will be on Linux or Solaris, then you should go with Flash.” This will probably be the case for ANY website, which makes flash in my opinion the way to go.

    0
  15. 15

    It seems that there was no mention of Adobe’s Flash media server solutions. These are streaming solutions that use Flash’s proprietary RTMP protocol.

    And, as a previous commentator noted, Flash 10 is compatible with H.264/AVC, which is an MPEG-4 standard. Just about anybody now can encode H.264 on any platform, with tools like MediaCoder, QuickTime, Adobe Media Encoder, HandBrake, and so on. This is far more reaching than the limited VC-1 support that Silverlight has, which may be an ‘industry standard’ but which is supported by far fewer applications.

    0
  16. 16

    Collin Rountree

    May 9, 2009 6:56 am

    You also neglected to mention the development environment. Flash can be developed on either OS X or Windows, while Silverlight requires you to be using Windows to develop any silverlight applications, and not just Windows, but the Visual Studio development kit for Windows which is not in the typical arsenal for web development. No matter how you slice and dice it, Silverlight is Microsofts attempt at redefining the standard, and in my opinion, adding support for search engines in your web application is not worth the switch when it could just be embedded in the encompassing html. Someone else mentioned the price tag on Flash, you don’t have to buy the full CS suite to buy flash. Silverlight is cheap if you don’t want to use the advanced “scripting” features found in the VisualStudio. Every version of Silverlight I saw were plugins to Visual Studio, which is not cheap either. At least as a Mac user I can develop in flash, no choice since Microsoft went the usual proprietary way.

    0
  17. 17

    I Personally prefer AJAX (or more correctly, the dynamic html+javascript UI) over flash or silverlight coz AJAX is popular because it builds directly on current web skills (javascript, html, css), doesn’t require a client-side plugin or support (even though the javascript can sometimes be an even larger download) is generally cross-platform, solved an immediate problem (async data) and for the most part, didn’t provide the enormous flexibility that Flash or Silverlight do today. Developers could wrap their heads around it, and build apps without having to have a designer background. Still, it’s hard to beat the flexibility and SEO response of HTML/CSS & AJAX in compare to Flash and Silverlight.

    Nice writing Muhammad… good analysis and great reading… Thanks for sharing.

    DKumar M.
    @instantShift

    0
  18. 18

    connecticut websites

    May 9, 2009 7:09 am

    there’s no distinct compelling reason to choose Silverlight over Flash – the differences are subtle at best.

    0
  19. 19

    Courtny Cotten

    May 9, 2009 7:38 am

    SM reads my mind….just yesterday I was introduced to Silverlight by one of our engineers…how eerie…

    Good to point out the differences I asked a lot of these same questions when discussing which was better to use.

    0
  20. 20

    Charlie Robbins

    May 9, 2009 7:51 am

    Silverlight supports both Frame based animations and non-frame based animations. If you are using Blend (the Silverlight designer), then your animations default to key frame based animations by default. You can control them very much in the same way as you would in Flash.

    See more on the MSDN site:
    DoubleAnimation
    DoubleAnimationUsingKeyFrames

    0
  21. 21

    Anthony Persaud

    May 9, 2009 7:57 am

    You forgot to mention that Flash is part of the set of tools (ecosystem) provided by Adobe to make it easier to create engaging experiences by separating the workflow but keeping all items in sync.

    This article could be improved by taking into account the Flex SDK as a more developer tool/platform and the Flash IDE (“a designer’s tool” as pointed in the article).

    0
  22. 22

    Flash lacks HTML support, Flex component such as the rich text edtitor is really worthless.
    Making a CMS in Flash you will end up using javascript HTML overlays… pretty lame.

    Website interactivity/animation/surveys/banners : Flash.
    Interactive Business Applications : Silverlight
    Flex Builder versus Visual Studio: Visual Studio.

    0
  23. 23

    Nice writeup. Bear in mind though, that Silverlight Mac PowerPC support has been discontinued as of version 2.0.

    0
  24. 24

    Doug C. – The great thing about the article is, it’s unbiased… unlike your comment =]

    0
  25. 25

    Great article. Would just say that Flash is quite a bit better for all but the most basic, canned animation.

    0
  26. 26

    There are wrong facts here, first of all, you are comparing it to Flash CS3, when Flash CS4 has been out for a WHILE and it doesnt use the frame by frame anymore.

    And seconds, to the guy that says you need to spend a lot of cash to build a flash application, just download the Flex SDK (open source and free) and go to town.

    0
  27. 27

    Nice Article and
    Hello No 18 Philipp
    You seem to know better. Do you have a blog or website?

    0
  28. 28

    Wow, exellent article. ++A!

    0
  29. 29

    Comparing the tech specs of the way information is distributed in the presentation of animation is one thing, but you’ve completely glazed over the fact that flash offers virtually endless possibilities in it’s web animation capabilities and experience while Silverlight offers quick canned basics. To say that it’s better or offers more in the way of animation is just wrong. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already a fan of Flash, and I think Silverlight brings some great stuff to the table overall. But for web animation, it’s just not a player in the same game.

    That grumbling aside, I found this article very informative as always:)

    0
  30. 30

    What about Flex ? (flex vs silverlight)

    0
  31. 31

    Flex and Flash is pretty much the same thing, but my opinion is that the comparasion should have been about Flex and Silverlight.

    0
  32. 32

    There is no “Linux 5″

    0
  33. 33

    This was long awaited article. Though there has been many comparison, a step by step and concise is this one.

    0
  34. 34

    Nice coverage of both, but the fact that there’s no official Silverlight IDE for the Mac (and most likely never will be) pretty much ends the discussion. Microsoft wants designers and creative content providers to adopt Silverlight into their workflow, yet purposely ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of us use Macs because we can’t stand MS products. Sure, I know you can use Eclipse and all that, but the fact remains that they require you to use their OS in order to get anything significant done. I would rather be boiled in molten lead than go back to using Windows, so I guess I’m out of luck if I ever need to develop a Silverlight app.
    The dislike for all things MS is not just a snobby elitist thing, either. People who care about design have a much lower tolerance for things that are poorly designed. Microsoft’s products seem to come from a fantasy world wherein everyone – including designers – uses and loves their products. They have yet to wake up to the fact that it’s no longer the mid-90’s, and that intelligent consumers and users have moved on to things that better suit their needs.
    Silverlight, the strategy behind it, and nearly all of Microsoft’s products are just more reminders that they simply want more market share. They couldn’t care less about empowering us to design better user experiences, and really just want to get people tethered to Windows and all their proprietary .NET stuff. No thanks!

    Personally, I’ll be surprised if Silverlight still exists five years from now. Remember Microsoft Liquid Motion?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Liquid_Motion

    0
  35. 35

    It seems like the author is a flash fan-boy.

    I have been developing in Flash for about 6 years now, and there are many many irritating things like the way flash handles threading (slowing down the movie on each thread running) etc. And communication between Flash and your web application is tedious to say the least. That being said, I am relatively new to Silverlight, so I havent yet discovered what will irritate me about it.

    0
  36. 36

    The article was useful but only gives a limited idea of what is possible with either technology – both can be ‘better’ than the other in a lot comparisons depending on how you choose to use what is available. You say silverlight has ‘better’ animation support – but it doesn’t have full IK (bones) deformation and animation to my recollection – also you talk about Flash animations be frames-based this is true but there is also the capabilities for time-based animations too – Flash has so many ways to achieve a result it can be both incredibly powerful but also easy to miss the potential ‘best way’ to do something. I’m sure Silverlight is similar too – personally I felt let down by the tools MS provided as they didn’t maximise the technology’s potential – but this is improving with each iteration.

    Oh, and for video – you gloss over Flash’s standard codec support like it only has the bastardised sorenson – that was so long ago – it had the on2 VP6 codec since then – and now has mpeg4/h.264 support with aac audio – it will play standard quicktime mov files (which typically use an mpeg4 codec) as well most mobile phone video content .3gp as I understand it. It also has speex codec and server support for creating your own VOIP / video conferencing apps (amongst other things) Again, I’m sure Silverlight has a similar advanced feature set so I don’t want to appear like a Flash fanboy – but this article is misleading because it suggests this is the majority of what the technologies do – but they can do a lot more!

    P.S. you don’t have to compile all your assets into the SWF – you can load them dynamically at runtime if you want them to indexable in there own right, or just for convenience, plus not all text is stored as shape outlines, dynamic textfields cannot be stored this way and so the text has to be present in the SWF, and also can be changed to text created with script or loaded remotely. Again I would think SIlverlight could do this too ;)

    0
  37. 37

    it is simple
    after all my effort given to flash doubtlessly i will stick with it
    no matter what silverlight or “goldenlight” might be

    0
  38. 38

    Flash is expensive, really? Try downloading FlasDevelop and the FlexSDK and you’ll be on your way without paying a dime. There are tons of classes out there to facilitate doing stuff like Augmented Reality, 3D, physics, tweening, preloading, multi-touch, etc, not to mention the plethora of tutorials, blogs, guides and forums out there to help anybody learn Actionscript. Flash is the clear winner.

    Having said that, I’m glad Adobe has a competitor just to keep them in check and innovating.

    0
  39. 39

    How could you forget to mention that Flash is ALREAD INSTALLED on close to 100% of the computers out there, while Silverlight is down around 25%?!? And that Flash will be similarly dominant in the mobile players?! HUGE OMISSION.

    And btw, you should look at Microsoft’s own http://vine.net website where they USE FLASH INSTEAD OF THEIR OWN SILVERLIGHT. That should tell everyone something about the importance of ubiquity…

    0
  40. 40

    Yes, the comparison should’ve been Flex vs. Silverlight. MXML vs. XAML – not ActionScript vs. XAML. The equivalent of Flash in the Microsoft ecosystem would be something like Expression Blend.

    Good article, however I have to disagree on the Silverlight beating out Flash on the animation side. For anyone that’s ever built interactions using triggers in Blend, I think they’ll agree that it’s substantially easier to build the same interaction in Flash using event listeners and timeline-based animations.

    The latest version of Flash has so much more to offer with regard to animation. Bones and rigging anyone? 3D support? Flash is a VERY solid animation tool – and beats Silverlight hands down.

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  41. 41

    This is article is biased to the point of being fanboi, with a couple of “pro-Flash” points put in to pretend it’s not. Example: “Industry standard VC-1″? Really? Except that H.264 is available in virtually every single place that VC-1 is except for MS products, and in an order of magnitude more places total (Flash, iPods, DirecTV boxes, mobile phones, etc).

    And does no one remember the ActiveX fiasco? The only difference there was that MS had enough market share at the time where they could afford to make ActiveX only run on IE/Windows. What happens when MS decides Silverlight is well-supported enough that, say, version 5 is going to be IE only? Or purposely makes it perform so poorly on the Mac or on other browsers besides IE that IE becomes the default choice? There’s no denying that these are possibilities because they’ve done similar things in the past countless times. I can’t imagine any serious web developer risking being subject to MS lock-in again.

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  42. 42

    Linux 5? Do you mean Operating system 4? or Computer 6?

    Interesting article but there are obvious gaps in what relates to non-Windows OSs ( e.g. Ubuntu is not Linux?). The author does not seem to know what Linux is when he does not name the popular distributions or confuses kernel with operating systems and distributions. There are other issues. For example, the author does not specify if Microsoft is providing its WMA encoders on Linux, and if there is a decoder available (what would you do with your data once it is formatted for Silverlight?). I don’t think MovieMaker is available on Linux either… and what about the Mono project (& moonlight: http://mono-project.com/Moonlight )?

    Also, Flash support interpolations where you just need to define begin and end conditions. That makes the comment on Animations incomplete. I am not a Flash expert, but I thought I read something about Flash server and streaming (Google gives that link for example : http://www.adobe.com/products/flashmediaserver/fvss/). I have no idea how that compares to Silverlight streaming but it sounds related to me. Finally, I was surprised there is no mention of Flex or the Mono project, or even Adobe AIR.

    The article does not look at software interoperability either. Does Silverlight works as well with Firefox (or Opera, Konqueror, etc.) as with Microsoft IE? As one commenter says above, the business environment should be considered. If you are a Microsoft shop then Silverlight has obvious advantages but may be not as much if you are a Java shop, a PHP shop, a Linux-based business, etc. Future articles could look into that direction. A comparison of interoperability features and “playing nice” with IT environments would be interesting as well.

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  43. 43

    Awesome article. Good job!

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  44. 44

    Hmmm.. I’ve been using Flash since v. 3.0. With all those irritating things in Flash it is such a powerfull tool not only for programmers/developers but for graphicians too. Author didn’t mentioned it, as he focused on tech-level comparision, which is a huge mistake for such comparision. How do you say, SL has better audio/video support? What about learning curve, what about single-file-deployment in Flash. I’ve tried to use SL but it’s typical MS tool – too much complicated, thousands of separate files… Flash advantage is very huge in most cases, while its weaknesses are rather subtle. I personally was quite impressed how artists are making a use of Flash while the cannot do a single thing in SL. I saw some apps made in SL – they are slow and very unstable, even on MSIE. Have you ever heard of unstable Flash application? Once it works properly, it does work everytime on different machines/systems. And… games. Please, show me SL games. They present the level of early 90’s games made on Amiga.

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  45. 45

    read more at boycottnovell.com

    May 9, 2009 11:53 am

    Silverlight is a lie and a proven patent trap.
    Moonlight is NOT – and will never be – equal to the Windows version.
    It’s all about microsoft’s fud and obsession to own everything and everyone.

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  46. 46

    I’m really surprised how that article did get on this site. It’s not about differences about technologies – it’s an article about flash and how to find ways to show that it’s better than silverlight – including lying. Author read something about silverlight and to find its problems and things that it’s missing. Not knowing about Moonlight (and Monodevelop which allows to create and run silverlight apps on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – there’s also IDE based on Eclipse to do the same).
    On the license side of both technologies – there are no differences. Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash are proprietary, both file formats are publicly documented standards.
    When it comes to programming – silverlight gives much more – it’s language independent since version 2.0 (the logic can be written in any .NET language). It supports playback of WMA, WMV, MP3 and AAC, H.264 since Silverlight 3. It also supports 3D, pixel shaders and uses GPU to accelerate those operations. It does support socket programming – on much higher level. There are tools for creating executable files from silverlight applications – even free ones. Moonlight on the other hand did make it possible to use silverlight applications as desktop widgets.
    I’m not a fan of silverlight technology – I do know a bit about it – just a bit but I see that it’s more that author of this article did know about when searching for information for this article.
    There is one big problem with silverlight with which I have to agree – flash is more popular and it makes it more difficult to develop in silverlight rather than flash. that’s why from time to time I have to develop in flash (and hack it to do what I want – especially when using AS2) insted of any other technology.
    don’t get me wrong – I’m not a MS fanboy – I try to choose and use technologies that are usefull for certain needs – I just see that some people hate MS so much that they will write anything to show other how much it suck.

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  47. 47

    @Radeksonic: What part of open standards didn’t you understand? You don’t HAVE to use Adobe’s IDE to get the job done, there’s plenty of free third-party IDEs for that.

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  48. 48

    It’s only a dream in someone’s imagination that those of us who use *nix have any real interest in Mono. Whenever anyone tries to push Microsoft software on us they always say “It runs on Mono!” as if that means anything to us and makes us have a burning desire to install or use it.

    It’s also funny to see Windows developers think Silverlight is so much better because it integrates well with Windows and Microsoft tools. This means nothing to us who don’t use either and have no use for either.

    The internet is a *nix world, no matter what Microsoft wants you to believe and think, and it will never be Microsoft’s world.

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  49. 49

    This article doesn’t say that Flash is good over silverilght. Its a technical comparison and if flash is good then its good.

    I liked the comparison though!

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  50. 50

    No one mentioned Flash Media Server or Flash Lite
    As Flash developer I cant see anything interesting here – sorry

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