What is Microsoft Silverlight? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Silverlight from Microsoft is an example of an ambitious initiative to offer your fingertips rich web content. However, it’s also an admonition to what could go wrong.

What is Silverlight exactly? Do you need it even for a specific project? Given the current state of Silverlight, you or your web development needs probably are not a choice.

What is Silverlight, exactly?

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 rich 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.

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.

When will Microsoft end Silverlight support?

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Microsoft officially ends support for Silverlight 5, the final version, 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.

From January 31, 2020, after Internet Explorer 10 from Windows 8 loses Silverlight, Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10 will be the last browser to support the Windows Platform. With version 45 (September 2015), Google stops supporting Chrome while Mozilla has waited until March 2017 to drop Firefox Silverlight 52. The software was never supported by both Opera and Microsoft Edge.

Silverlight disappeared on Android and iOS sometime around 2015. 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, indicating that support for the software would eventually cease. By 2018, less than 0.1% of all websites used Silverlight.

Is Silverlight still available?

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If you still want Silverlight maybe you’re writing a study on failed browser software. You can download Silverlight 5 until the October 2021 deadline. You won’t get much out of the experience, however, considering its current state.  Silverlight hasn’t been worth using in years.

If you need an application framework for web development, use HTML5 instead. It offers a certain amount of future-proofing and handles modern internet content.

Still, if you insist on installing Silverlight, do so in a safe environment without sensitive data, like a virtual machine. Active support and updates for the software stopped back in 2012, though bug fixes continue periodically. Even more, OS support for Silverlight is currently a hit or miss.

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