I recently attended John Bristowe's presentation on Silverlight. He was great as always and gave a good overview of the technology but I left the room not being as excited about Silverlight as I was when I went in.

Which isn't to say I'm not stoked about it. I'm a big AJAX fan and the idea of doing some of the more complicated or labour-intensive stuff in managed code is appealing. But there has been a tremendous amount of buzz on Silverlight. I've been following Tim Heuer's recent adventures in it with a tinge of jealousy because I'm still not playing with it a lot. And when Ray Ozzie touts the next big thing, people listen.

I had done my own "hello world" app early on and was suitably impressed. In the intervening months, the buzz just kept growing and growing to the point where I went into the presentation trying to see what else there was to it. I knew it was being positioned as a Flash-killer (or at least that's what the buzz was) but I had to see what I had missed in my XAML.

Turns it out, not much. Yes, it's a Flash-killer (whether John wants to say the words or not) but as far as I can tell, that's it. At the end, I was scratching my head about why everyone was so worked up about it. You're still working with textboxes and input buttons and wiring up the events the same way you would in HTML and Javascript, albeit in a *much* easier way. And probably prettier too once the designers get hold of this. You still have the same security limitations of Javascript. In particular, you still can't call webservices outside your domain. (This was one of the problems I thought Silverlight may have solved. They're working on it but for the moment at least, you still need to call back to your own domain.)

The essence of my puzzlement is that I don't understand why so many people think this is going to revolutionize the web. I mean that as a genuine question, not a cynical dig. Is it because of the presentation-aspect? That Silverlight can make apps that much more appealing visually? If so, how is it different than Flash? To be sure, the airline demo *is* impressive (and I sincerely hope someone is making an effort to do a real-world version of it).

I dunno, maybe I am underestimating the popularity of Flash. It doesn't seem like a very threatening technology to kill off. I'm probably not recognizing the value of the media-centred features of Silverlight as well. This is probably the big selling point for the executives at Microsoft, especially in an era where YouTube can be sold for $1.65b.

More likely, I'm probably underestimating the pain new web developers are feeling trying to get Javascript to do things people have come to expect from their web apps. Early in the presentation, John asked, "Who *likes* working with HTML, CSS, and Javascript?" It was a loaded question and I didn't want to get him off-track early in the presentation but to be honest, I do. Not at the expense of "real" development but I actually don't mind diving into Fiddler with XMLHTTPRequest objects, spewing alerts all over the screen. Not all day, every day but I like mucking with the DOM in a crappy dynamic language once in a while. It's my version of slumming it.

Silverlight is still in the top three on my technology wish list. I can think of quite a few applications that could benefit from it, not the least of which is the near-defunct music player I work on in fits of ambition. So I'll fiddle around with it in the coming months because it fits with my sensibilities. And if I'm lucky, it'll be as popular as everyone says it will and I'll be able to keep the young'un fed for the next couple of years.

Kyle the Aligned