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Silverlight 4 Release: Happy Third Birthday, Silverlight!

Pete Brown - 15 April 2010

I've watched each ctp, beta, and release of Silverlight with delight. I wrote a production application in 1.1a and never looked back. This will be my first Silverlight release as a Microsoft employee, and I'm happy to say it doesn't disappoint.

Three years ago today, the name "Silverlight" was officially announced, and the tong-twisting code-name "WPF/E" was no longer.

As a 'softie and someone close to the WPF and Silverlight teams, I'm very proud of this release. As a user of Silverlight, I'm excited to be able to use Silverlight 4 in production applications beyond just demos, and even more excited to see you all build cool things with it. As an author, I'm thinking "holy crap I need to finish this book" ;)

Tim Heuer, as always, has an excellent overview post for Silverlight 4. Be sure to check it out. Rather than try and duplicate what Tim has done, I thought I'd take a brief look back at the history of Silverlight.

Silverlight has come a long way since the early days in late 2006 and early 2007.

Silverlight 1.0

Silverlight 1.0 was great for media and games. Looking back at it now, it has pretty strong affinity with what HTML5 will shape up to be. It had a canvas for drawing, supported media, and used javascript for programming. I have to admit that this release was interesting to me, but didn't really excite me. I'm just not much of a javascript guy. Although, I do think jQuery is nice :)

Silveright 1.1 Alpha

Silverlight 1.1 alpha was a proof of concept for a portable CLR, and was lacking things like textbox and button controls. Back then, if you wanted a button, you had to create it based on some sample code. UserControls required manual loading and parsing of XAML, and there was no .XAP - just loose DLLs and a requirement to make sure your web server would serve up DLLs rather than try and execute them. Oh, and you had to have the right mime type for DLL in there as well. Silverlight 1.1a even had LINQ; my first time ever using System.Linq was in a Silverlight project.

Silverlight 2

Silverlight 1.1 alpha eventually became Silverlight 2. For many, Silverlight 2 was the release that really started it all for them. It had the xap model we know and love, a great CLR implementation, and a good subset of WPF functionality. This is the version most folks used to start building serious in-browser applications.

Silverlight 3

Silverlight 3 was a great upgrade to sl2. We added out-of-browser functionality 3d transforms and more. Pixel shaders, easing functions, the bitmap API, file dialogs and more. Silverlight 3 also added the .NET RIA Services preview. Silverlight 3 was a great release, and gave us all the sense that Silverlight was really maturing as a development platform.

Silverlight 4

For me, Silverlight 4 is the "out of browser" release. While I know OOB was introduced in Silverlight 3, it really comes into its own in 4. You can have trusted applications that can read and write to certain locations on Mac and Windows. You have custom window chrome for a nice, branded experience. Notification toast is pretty sweet as well. Of course, on Windows, you also have the IDispatch/COM API.

That's not to say all the innovation went into out-of-browser. Nope, we have sweet new features like the dynamic keyword in C#, webcam and microphone support, better binding and validation, a new Xaml engine and much much more.

With Silverlight 4 WCF RIA Services has come into its own, and will be releasing 1.0. I absolutely love the process the team went through in vetting ideas and concepts with the community. RIA Services is going to be essential to data-oriented Silverlight application development.

Silverlight 4 really makes Silverlight a competitive and viable platform for traditional forms-over-data business applications all the way through to the richest online and offline apps you can image. I'm really excited. To get the bits and try out Silverlight 4 yourself, visit silverlight.net

Silverlight v.Next

Of course, now that we have this version out, you'll want to start thinking about what you want in the next version. I know you guys :) So, head over to silverlight.mswish.net and start voting. Or, maybe wait a couple days and at least let SL4 settle on your dev workstation first ;)

posted by Pete Brown on Thursday, April 15, 2010
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2 comments for “Silverlight 4 Release: Happy Third Birthday, Silverlight!”

  1. Marksays:
    Although I really like SL 3 and will like SL 4 even more, I am really worried about the future. As more and more browsers support HTML5, where will that leave SL? The old proprietary versus open standard problem. This is esspecially brought home by Apple who will simply not allow SL or Flash -- ever. I was looking forward to leveraging SL on my platforms, but now I fear that Apple may even decide to block plug-ins for the Mac.

    So what is the plan for the FUTURE? Will we somehow be able to have SL developed apps run in HTML5 without having to have a plug-in?

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