2008/08/10

Silverlight & A New Web Experience

Read an excellent thought piece today, "On Fighting the Web Itself" by DeWitt Clinton, which suggested Microsoft and Silverlight have "...the potential of changing how the web itself works."

There were two relevant 'companion' articles on the topic:
My interpretation of Clinton's post is that he feels it's time for a major change in the user experience on the internet. The US and many other parts of the world made a major step forward from dial-up speeds to 'broadband', enabling video, web apps and other uses of the web sometimes referred to as Web 2.0. But Clinton and others feel a war is currently in progress, or at least a battle for the best technology to enable a step change in telecollaboration and usability of internet tools.

The tension between choices and standards is an interesting and critical one. Choices spur competition and innovation. Until the Firefox web browser was released and had one or two significant revisions, Microsoft allowed Internet Explorer to languish for several years. They appeared to see no need to spend significant dollars on improving the capabilities of Internet Explorer. The release of Firefox and its innovations prompted the IE team to get back in the saddle and bring a new user experience to the IE community.

At the same time, however, choices result in challenges. Instead of developing primarily for the 90+% market of Internet Explorer, website designers now have to worry about several versions of IE, a couple versions of Firefox, with some Safari, Opera and other browser issues sometimes thrown into the mix. The previous IE monoculture had, for a couple years, resulted in a less-complicated world for those website designers. The 90+% penetration of the Windows OS similarly enabled rapid growth of personal computer applications and standardization of computer hardware. Will the marketshare growth of the Mac OS X and Linux be a 'good' thing in terms of innovation and choices or a 'bad' thing in terms of more hassle for pc developers and slower general pc growth. In nature, monocultures general result in ecosystem problems; the technology world likely has some instructive corollaries...

Similarly, Flash, Silverlight, Ajax and all the other internet alternatives or enhancements to standard web browsers will mean more capabilities for internet users but a more complicated world for those building internet tools and content.

Especially of interest to me is how the mobile computing world will impact or be affected by developments in rich internet applications. My preference is that mobile computing drives the RIA world and that those RIA developers deliver tools and applications that make my Samsung i760, the iPhone and Android phones effective and fun information and entertainment tools.

Have you downloaded Silverlight yet? Which tools do you prefer for rich internet applications or for maximum effectiveness and enjoyment on the internet?

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