Have you heard of Microsoft Silverlight? It is an all-purpose plug-in designed by Microsoft and launched in 2007. As of now, it will receive its burial in the digital cemetery in October 2021.
So, why should we worry about what Microsoft Silverlight is when its glory days have passed? Let’s take a moment to consider what Silverlight was and how its demise could affect the digital world.
Silverlight is depreciated technology. It’s a product of Microsoft’s ambitious push to create a unified media experience across PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.
Launched in 2007, Silverlight is an application framework designed to run “rich” internet applications. Think of it as an alternative to Adobe Flash, which crams static and interactive media into “containers” that requires a “player” (plugin) to run.
Like Flash, Silverlight is an all-purpose plugin for streaming videos, livestreams, animations, and vibrant graphics to devices. However, it relies heavily on Microsoft’s XAML — a text-based markup language — for the user interface, animations, and vector graphics. It’s also based on Microsoft’s .NET Framework, allowing developers to use any tool that supports the .NET language.
Ultimately, Silverlight gives web developers a way to enable rich animations using Windows-based formats rather than Flash. It supports Windows Media Video (WMV), Windows Media Audio (WMA), H.264 video, Advanced Audio Coding, and MPG3. It doesn’t require the traditional Windows-based players.
Silverlight’s demise stems from a combination of factors. Overall, however, the software world simply moved on to a better, more secure content delivery method.
When Silverlight launched in 2007, it seemed to be an enormous success. Microsoft pulled in several major partners, including NBC, which used Silverlight to stream the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Political conventions used Silverlight during the same year, as did the 2010 Winter Olympics. Even Amazon Video and Netflix used Silverlight as their video-streaming backbone.
But if Microsoft had a hit on its hands, it was short-lived. Problems quickly surfaced, such as bugs in various applications. Unfortunately, these bugs were only one small facet of the overall problem.
In a 2011 blog, former Silverlight producer manager Scott Barnes said Microsoft didn’t have a coherent strategy — the company was 100% reactive and unable to understand what the market required. Microsoft also pushed Silverlight 2 and Silverlight 3 long before anyone — including its management teams — was ready.
Before long, HTML5 arrived as a very versatile framework with the promise of a great future online. Silverlight swiftly became obsolete even for those still using it. After announcing its plans in 2013, Netflix switched over to HTML5 in 2015, given Silverlight’s eventual demise. Amazon Video switched over to HTML5 the same year.
Microsoft officially ends support for the final version of Silverlight 5 on October 12, 2021. That means it won’t receive official quality improvements and security updates. The installer won’t be available after that date either.
Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10 will be the last browser to support the platform, after Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 dropped Silverlight on January 31, 2020. Google Chrome discontinued support in version 45 (September 2015), while Mozilla waited until March 2017 to remove Silverlight in Firefox 52. Both Opera and Microsoft Edge never even supported the platform.
Silverlight disappeared on Android and iOS sometime around 2015. It was the primary development environment for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which was succeeded by Windows 10 Mobile and eventually discontinued in December 2019.
Of course, at this point, the 2021 death sentence is little more than a coup de grâce. Microsoft advised everyone to stop using Silverlight entirely in 2015, signaling that support for the software would eventually cease. By 2018, less than 0.1% of all websites used Silverlight.
When it comes down to it, the only reason to download Silverlight is if you need to research for a project on different browser software gone bad. If you are literally in that situation, you can download Silverlight 5 up until October 2021. Unfortunately, given its current state, you won’t be able to do much with the service. Silverlight hasn’t been worth using in years.
Trying out Silverlight would quickly prove to be ineffective; you won’t be able to tackle much, and the software could be a risk to your computer. If you do need to see an app to understand a framework for web development, consider trying out HTML5. This program will offer a bit of future-proofing, and it’s compatible with current internet content.
All of that said, if you still insist on trying out Silverlight, be sure to install it safely and in a place without sensitive data—like on a virtual machine. Silverlight no longer comes with customer support or software upgrades, so if an issue pops up, your only solution may be debugging it yourself. OS support for Silverlight is currently a hit-or-miss.
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