Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Desperate Measures

Greetings from Santa Cruz, where the Berkeley OSQ group's retreat has just ended and I'm hacking away in my hotel room so I can run some performance tests while I go for a walk on the beach. I love software development.

Silverlight is interesting. It sounds pretty good. We definitely have work to do to make sure that the Web stays attractive as a platform. But we already knew that, and a lot of what we've been working on for Firefox 3 over the last few years aims to address that --- offline apps, better text rendering, video, better graphics; we're doing the right things and we need to keep on doing them.

To tell the truth, I'm a lot less worried about Silverlight and Flash than I am about WPF, for a couple of reasons. First, SilverFlash is a lot more Web-centric than WPF: the browser is still in the loop. There are compelling development and user benefits for this approach, like the ability to participate in hyperlinking, so I think it'll remain popular. That means that browsers won't become irrelevant any time soon and that means we have an ongoing opportunity to keep moving the Web forward. Secondly, SilverFlash is cross-platform (at least for now), especially if Miguel has his way and is able to produce a viable open source implementation. This is very interesting and perhaps underappreciated: Silverlight is a very risky move by Microsoft. The Web has been steadily undermining the Windows platform monopoly, and to the extent that SilverFlash is a more attractive development target than the Web, they undermine Windows that much more. Sure, in the long term, if Silverlight dominates Microsoft can pull back support for platforms they don't own --- especially if Adobe is dead (but I think they'd be bought first). However that is a long term strategy and it can be countered, especially if Miguel's open source implementation gets traction. In the medium term, things don't look good for Windows.

We need to keep the pressure on and keep forcing Microsoft to make decisions like this.


I think Microsoft should provide official support for linux before silverlight can be considered seriously cross-platform. I used to follow the mono project closely and the problem with mono is that they always claim compatibility with ASP.net, winforms, and now silverlight. However when you actually try to run ms apps on top of mono you run into weird performance issue, buggier libraries and windowsisms in the code (that microsoft likes to encourage).
So as long as silverlight is not an unofficial port, it'll make linux a 2nd class platform with unexpected bugs in silverlight apps on linux. This will only lead to people recommending windows for viewing their apps.
> We definitely have work to do to make sure that the Web stays attractive as a platform.
invest some more in SVG then
SVG as an image or a native part of the page (i.e. non rectangular part of the page)
and fast 3D please :-)