Simple yes or no question: is Silverlight dead?

Looking at the search terms that people enter and happen to result in the outcome of them visiting my blog, I noticed quite some visitors come here hoping to get a simple yes or no answer to their question: “is Silverlight dead 2012”  (or deviations thereof, including “Silverlight vs HTML5” etc).

Although I normally don’t blog about this subject, I can understand the confusion, because I do have quite some posts that would match those keywords, like

With this post, based solely on my own opinion, I wanted to give those people the simple yes or no answer to their question, and here it is:

“Is Silverlight dead 2012?”

Yes, it is.



your target is Joe Blow playing FarmVille on his iPad while watching “[YourCountryHere] got talent”.

And there you have it.  My simple answer.

If you are interested in my reasoning behind that answer…

If your target is regular Joe…

I don’t mean this in any demeaning way.  The business to consumer market is huge, and when the iPhone was first released some people became millionaires by creating a $0.99 Fart-Machine-app for that market.

This market segment is so big that the consumerization of IT pretty much dictates what the next major coding language will be this decennium.  I read an interesting post by Shawn Wildermuth about the current state of Silverlight, stating that it was in fact Steve Jobs who is responsible for what is happening to Silverlight.  When Apple (traditionally more popular in the consumer world than in the business world) launched the iPhone & iPad, and decided that no plugins would work on these platforms, that basically killed Silverlight and Flash in the business to consumer market.

Personally, I also believe this is one of the causes why HTML5 is that much more impressive than it’s predecessor, because the death of browser plugins left a gap that needed to be addressed, causing all parties involved to jump on the HTML5 wagon in high pace.

So my advice if you are going to build an app for the business to consumer market, would be not to use Silverlight.  Some IDEs allow you to write code that runs natively on a broad range of mobile devices, HTML5 is platform independent, … or just take a pick and write a truly awesome native app for a specific platform (iOS, Win8, whatever).  Your market is huge, and by the time the technology you picked has peaked, you’ll have plenty of profit to pay for a rewrite anyways…

If your target is the business…

Then the answer becomes a bit more difficult.  There are pros and there are cons now.  Pros include the fact that in the business world, Windows is traditionally a lot more popular than other operating systems, so you’re not really cutting off a significant slice of your potential market if you would decide to actually use Silverlight.  Pros also include the fact that you might have years of experience building Silverlight apps and thus you’re simply better at it.  From the business’ point of view, this means less money for a more stable product.

Personally, I like the way LightSwitch, that primarily targets small to medium LOB applications, is heading here.  Main client is Silverlight, but there is in fact the ability to  quickly pump out a mobile companion app when cross-platform or going mobile becomes a true requirement, or even to write a custom website all-together.

Whenever I can, if the need arises for a small to medium LOB application, I’ll open up LightSwitch and write them the application that will last at least another 15 years as opposed to the 20 that HTML5 might last them (you don’t think HTML5 is the last stadium in IT evolution, do you?), for a tenth of the time it would take someone else the same application in another technology.

If your target is the enterprise…

If you’re lucky enough, like I am on my day job, to be involved in multi-million enterprise to enterprise applications, then the answer to the question become less difficult again.

HTML5, a logical competitor for Silverlight, might be better in quite a large number of ways.  However, the tooling and experience, isn’t better yet.   This will most likely change in a couple of years, but considering the available Silverlight libraries, both open source and built in-house, experience and tooling, still screams that making the swap today would be deadly to your enterprise organisation, unless there’s a specific requirement for another or multiple platforms for the entire application.

So in summary…

There you have your simple answer, or at least my vision about what the most simple answer to that question is.

Also, and this one comes out of personal frustrations & experiences:  if you read the intro to my LightSwitch Succinctly eBook,  you’ll know that I’m a firm believer of focusing on the end-users needs first.  Don’t read this blog post during office hours, especially not if you are looking for posts to back you up in a discussion with your boss or coworkers about the technology to use for the next project, if the real reason is that you are only looking for an opportunity to play around with another technology.  Feel free to play around during your own time, but when there’s real end-users involved, focus on their needs, and the amount of money they end up paying for what they get.  Let that be the dictating factor of your decisions…  /rant

I’d like to end this post with a saying I hear daily from one of my personal friends and work mates: The answer to any question in IT is, always was and always has been: “It depends”. – Quote Arne Wauters.



13 thoughts on “Simple yes or no question: is Silverlight dead?

  1. Hey Jan! Great article! Really like the fact that you’re not limiting your perspective. Good to see some activity here too 🙂


  2. Hi Jan

    You have accurately conveyed my sentiments on this topic.

    I can only hope that MS continues to invest more into the DeskTop SL client and address the ongoing community concerns. If they do than they will provide a strong LOB platform for both Mobile as well as DeskTop for the Enterprise.
    Not sure where the developers list for improvements is at but it seems to be lost for the moment whilst they spin up mobile support. Sure hope they are reading the same discussion threads I read regarding multi-tenant, multi-cultural, modularity and more that the Dev community has clearly articulated the need for.

    • Hey John,

      I think MS is in a pretty rough situation atm, SL & WPF can’t really be continued because of WinRT on the desktop, and SL is not supported on mobile. It’ll be interesting to see if they can do anything about that in the near future at all.
      In other news, I’m happy I’m back to blogging again. Not so much to get my opinion out there, but for the comments from great people like yourself!
      Keep rocking LS!!!

  3. One HUGE scenario för SL currently is streaming video with DRM. Many sites have jumped from flash to SL, and HTML5 still doesn’t deliver the necessary features. I thought SL on the (consumer) desktop was going to evolve into a mere video player, since that is where it appears to be heading. Your opinion on SL for video? Will HTML ever deliver the type of DRM required?

  4. Great to see you’re back, Jan… I was wondering if you got secretly hired by the LightSwitch team and were slaving your soul towards the development of the HTML5 client. 🙂

    I’ve been researching LightSwitch, and love its philosophy/team/structure, but now with Windows Runtime Development available for Windows 8 (and all the cool form factors available for Windows 8), I’m starting to wonder if it’s a better long-term strategy to develop applications in Windows Runtime.

    It would also be cool to get a LightSwitch team member’s perspective on Windows 8 development as well…

  5. I wanted to start out with light switch 2011 yesterday, got so frustrated in trying to change the look and feel. I am new to WPF, but I feel I would rather go VS 2012 light switch that supports HTML5. I know HTML a lot better.I cannot look past the power of Light switch and I will stick to HTML as a save bet going forward…

  6. Jan, I’m glad I read this article. I had been under the impression that Silverlight is dead implied that Lightswitch was also. Glad to find out that Lightswitch can use HTML5. Question: Is this available in Visual Studio Express 2012?

  7. I’ve been a Silverlight developer for five years now as a consultant for two commercial Stock Exchange B2B Apps. In my opinion this could never have been accomplished in HTML5/JavaScript. SL was the perfect solution for our project and it’s frustrating to have it going away. There is a great comment on another blog that really captures my feelings on the subject that I ran across today. You may want to read it too…

  8. Anyone who invested in learning XAML, whether Silverlight or WPF, would understand the power behind the paradigm. It was a sad day when Microsoft announced the death of Silverlight for a change in direction.

    Yesterday I found this project ( it is implementing XAML using Javascript rendering it on the HTML5 canvas control. I know, at first I was, WTF… but then I downloaded the project (it is open source) and started experimenting – it is not complete and require more community involvement – but man! my mind was blown. I tested a simple XAML login and tile page I created using copy/paste XAML from my Silverlight app with a new Typescript code behind (similar to C#), using browserstack… WOW!!!

    To have XAML running in almost 100% of the environments, including IPhone, Android, Mac was just mind blowing.

    So go there and see for yourself…

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