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Differences Between HTML5 and Silverlight

silver light vs html5

Netflix switches from Silverlight to HTML5 in Windows 8.1, reduces CPU usage dramatically.

You might have come across this headline which was considered to be one of the most drastic changes in the world ASP.Net web development world. With the release of Windows 8.1 Preview, Netflix is now supporting streaming over HTML5 instead of Microsoft’s proprietary Silverlight plug-in. the only conflict is that only Internet Explorer 11, which is bundled with Windows 8.1, supports the necessary HTML5 extensions; if you are using chrome or Firefox, you will have to continue using the Silverlight plug-in. Initially, it has been seen that the switching to HTML5 leads to massive reduction in the CPU usage- about one third of Silverlight’s CPU usage.

Following the same pattern, a lot of similar players shifted down to HTML5 leaving behind their most trusted third-party pug-ins like Flash and Silverlight for dynamic web content. But still a lot of content providers have steadfastly refused to shift to HTML5 due to a lack of DRM. Doesn’t matter whether you like DRM or not, the sad truth is that streaming services such as Netflix, which are massively popular exist because the license holders feel somewhat secure that their shows won’t be ripped off.

One of the most conventional way in which HTML5 video is implemented is basically by putting an entire, unencrypted video file on the web, and then embedding it on a web page. This file can be directly downloaded if you so wish. This is fantastic for surfers and the proliferation of the open web, but not so great for copyright holders.

You might have noticed that browsers like Chrome do update very often, but the story of firefox is quite different; they don’t upgrade their browsers every week or even twice a year. Most of the enterprises will be on Firefox 3.6 for a longer while, or IE6 (in rare cases). And browser plugins like Silverlight and Flash can add new functionalities faster. They are called plugins for a reason- they plug-in and add something.

Tomorrow, Silverlight 5 will become Silverlight 6, Flash 10 will become Flash 11 and HTML5 will become HTML6. Every new spec would add new features, innovating, and pushing the others forward. The web will be pushed forward by all these and more.

There’s no question that advanced media apps, 3D, DVR video scenarios shine on Silverlight. There are some points which Silverlight CAN do some things that HTML5 can’t.

Now the question arises where to use Silverlight and where to use HTML5. Okay, check out the answer below:

If you are developing a web application that includes images, links and text boxes, some animations and interactivity, go straight for HTML5. With all new innovative JavaScript libraries like Modernizr, jQuery along with Polyfills, you can even use many HTML5 features and still have good functionality on ALL major browsers – not just the most recent generation.

If your application is of internal use or a line of business app and is what I call a basic “text boxes over data” application, you can certainly use Silverlight and its databinding features, or you can use JavaScript libraries like KnockoutJS and write it in HTML. Here, it depends on where you and your company’s core skillset lies. Both are good choices and both aren’t going anywhere.

If Silverlight has a feature that you need and that isn’t a part of mainstream browsers, consider a web app that is both HTML/JavaScript and Silverlight. We often get surprised that people feel the need to make Silverlight apps that fill the entire browser but consist of mostly text, images, links, etc. Don’t try to make Silverlight act like it is HTML. Do remember that HTML and Silverlight are two different things. Plugins are complimentary to the web, they are not the web. Use them in complementary ways to make the best experiences you can.

Also consider your own productivity and happiness and the tools you want to use. Think about your users, key skills, development team and their overall happiness.


Last modified: 25 Jun 2020

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