JavaScript vs Silverlight

by Justin Meyer

JavaScript vs Silverlight

Justin Meyer Recently, we've found ourselves part of a Silverlight vs JavaScript debate. I think that JavaScript is a better long term approach to web application development. But, I found myself stumbling the first time I needed to articulate my reasons. It was just a gut feeling. But after spending a few minutes sketching my thoughts, I've proved my intuition to my brain.

posted in Development on March 18, 2010 by Justin Meyer

Recently, we’ve found ourselves part of a Silverlight vs JavaScript
debate. I think that JavaScript is a better long term approach to web
application development
. But, I found myself stumbling the first time I
needed to articulate my reasons. It was just a gut feeling. But after
spending a few minutes sketching my thoughts, I’ve proved my intuition
to my brain.

There are 3 main reasons to not use Silverlight: future web
development needs, development time, and user experience.

The Future

  • Plugin Lock-In – When IE started to suck, it started loosing market
    share to better browsers. This was only possible b/c IE ran off
    accessible standards. It’s unlikely that someone will develop a
    “better” version of Silverlight. What happens if Silverlight doesn’t
    get updated for 10 years, just like IE.

  • HTML5 – HTML5 is going to provide a lot of the same goodies that
    Silverlight provides. It already has support of Google and Apple.

  • Group Standards – Yes, group standards move slow. But things seem to
    be picking up lately. however compare IE’s DOM standard to the
    W3C’s. Oh, don’t forget IE’s implementation -> Damn you Peekaboo
    Bug
    !

  • Competition – With Flash, Flex, Titanium, JavaFX, Silverlight is not
    at all the clear winner. There is only one JavaScript.

  • Backend lockin – If you want to develop flex, you pretty much have
    to be running WCF
    services

    from a .NET backend. The great thing about Thin Server Architectures
    is that your back end becomes replaceable.

Development Time

  • Tools – I’d rather use Firebug than the overweight Visual Studio any
    day. Also, errors from other people can be much easier tracked.

  • Open – There is tons of open-source JavaScript code to learn from.
    jQuery won open-source project of the
    year
    !

  • Community – I’ll admit I am not down with the Silverlight community.
    But there are tons ofJavaScript
    meetups

    and conferences.

  • Scripting vs Compile Languages- Scripting languages produce less
    code. Less code almost always means more maintainability. But, this
    is a matter of preference. I just don’t think Compiled wins by
    default.

  • Testing – It’s very hard to test silverlight. Selenium does not
    work.

User Experience

  • Percieved Performance – Load time is pretty much the most important
    thing to a user. JavaScript lets you progressively load only what
    you need to. This is more important than smooth animations in IE6.

  • In the Box – Silverlight is mostly trapped in its box. Either this,
    or you have to make the entire page silverlight.

  • Mobile Support – Good luck getting this on an iPhone.

  • OS Support – There’s a project for it for Linux. But considering how
    bad flash is on Linux, why would Silverlight be different?

  • Plugin Download and Install Base – Currently about 50% of people
    have Silverlight. Are you going to make 1/2 your users install the
    plugin?

  • Accessibility – You can’t highlight text.

Phew, that was quite a diatribe. There are some good reasons to use
Silverlight / Flash … when you need to do something that JavaScript
can’t do. Also, some considerations should be made to your
organization’s skill set. Otherwise, stick with JavaScript.

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