Thursday, September 20, 2007

Using Silverlight for a Website

I needed to set up a website that privately serves videos and pictures for family. So I looked around at the options for hosting the videos as streaming media in the browser -- basically Quicktime, Flash and Silverlight -- and decided to use Silverlight.

Going through each possibility one by one:

If you read this blog, you know by now that I have no love for Apple's Quicktime implementation on Windows. Maybe on Mac it's good, but it sucks on Windows. It crashes, installs services that continually bug you for upgrades, etc.. So that was out quickly.

Flash was the obvious choice going in, but I couldn't really figure out what to do. There are almost too many choices out there. I looked at Adobe, but they charge $700. Then there are a bunch of encoders you can buy for $50, $60 or whatever. I skipped over this in the meantime to at least try Silverlight.

Silverlight worked well so quickly that I decided to forgo messing with Flash. Silverlight just worked in the framework I already have on my desktop: Visual Studio (though it does require the forthcoming 2008 version), Windows Media, Vista. I did download Expression Encoder for the 60 day trial, but using Silverlight allows me to encode using run of the mill WMV encoder tools. Furthermore it was very clear to me how to hack together a template player and substitute in the media I want to play in Silverlight -- all in Javascript and XAML. No compilation required. And if I do want to compile things, in the next version of Silverlight I can do it using C#, which I already know very well.

The nice thing is that Silverlight 1.0 played well into the back end being Ruby on Rails. I created some super simple Rails templates to put together the Silverlight code I needed for a page.

It's early on this project, but it already appears that Silverlight probably was the best choice for the site. I got it up and running with minimal work and expense, which were my two main requirements. Now I just have to hope that Microsoft doesn't can Silverlight too quickly

The buzz about Silverlight seems to be growing since I last stated that it would get canned, but I still don't understand what Microsoft is really doing with it product-wise. The technology seems pretty good. And if you read some of the buzz on the web, old time Flash guys are starting to like Silverlight. The Expression tools that are supposed to compete with Adobe are not that aggressively priced -- they're maybe $100 cheaper than Flash.

No comments: