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Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?

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“Someone’s got it in for me, They’re planting stories in the press. Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it quick, but whether they will I can only guess.”

“Idiot Wind”, Bob Dylan, 1974

A couple of lines that seemed relevant to me in all the commentary that I’ve seen since the PDC last week and the buzz over how much or how little was said about HTML5 and Silverlight.

It was interesting (to say the least!) to watch how some fairly innocuous reporting got picked up and then turned into something else by people other than the original reporters who perhaps wanted to promote a slightly phony war between the Silverlight and HTML5 technologies. To me, some of that felt like it was coming from ever so slightly anti-Microsoft folks who have;

  1. Woken up and realised Microsoft is embracing HTML5 in IE9 ( this was not new at PDC, the previews of IE9 have been around for quite some time although they improve with each release ).
  2. A mistaken view that Silverlight is, was or was planned to be a replacement for HTML and/or the browser and so is somehow mutually exclusive with Microsoft embracing HTML5.

Short, Sweet and Complete

Bob Muglia has clarified the situation with a post over on the Silverlight team blog. Quotes;

  1. Silverlight is very important and strategic to Microsoft.
  2. We’re working hard on the next release of Silverlight, and it will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and Mac.
  3. Silverlight is a core application development platform for Windows, and it’s the development platform for Windows Phone.

Steve Ballmer has also commented on the situation.

  1. We will also enable browser scenarios that provide additional capabilities, including Silverlight.  Silverlight provides the richest media streaming capabilities on the web, and we will continue to deliver that on both Windows and Mac.
  2. Developers can build great applications for it (Windows 7)) using Win32, .NET, Silverlight and HTML5.

That should be the end of the story until there’s an announcement about the next version of Silverlight.

Feel free to stop reading at this point if you’re tight for time. No offense taken Smile

A Longer Version ( my own 2p )

My view’s probably not worth too much stacked up against that of Bob or Steve but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a view and so I thought I’d share some thoughts.

Whilst watching the various discussions going on, it was reassuring to see that the most reasoned analysis came from seasoned Silverlight professionals who understand what Silverlight is and what it’s used for. Analysis from people such as Laurent, Robbie and Jeremy.

My own opinion is something along the lines of;

  • Microsoft needs to have great support for the web standards around the browser (i.e. HTML and HTML5).
  • Microsoft needs to have additional frameworks for building clients that are more deeply integrated with the platform (i.e. Silverlight / WPF ) than a browser is today or looks likely to be in the future.

and I think there are many, many reasons why that will be the case for the foreseeable future.

From some of the stories that I’ve seen, I think a lot of confusion stems from people not understanding what Silverlight is.

Silverlight is not a replacement for HTML. Silverlight never was a replacement for HTML. Silverlight is a rich internet application technology.

I often feel that a cross-vendor analogy helps in this area and so I want to digress slightly because I do not think that this need for a rich client technology applies purely to Microsoft.

It’s something that seems to be very much recognised by other vendors too…

Digression…

I’m not an expert on Apple’s developer platform but I want to try and draw an analogy with that platform. As far as I understand it when you look at Apple’s developer platform they support both;

  • HTML/5 and JavaScript
  • Rich Client applications developed with Obective C and Cocoa (Touch)

and no-one seems to struggle with this.

I rarely see pronouncements that Apple’s support for HTML5 means that they will kill off other APIs such as their Cocoa (Touch) API.

Steve Jobs himself has stated very clearly in recent times the importance he ascribes to Apple’s own APIs so I don’t imagine that he’ll go “all in” on HTML5 in a hurry and make it the only way to build iOS and OS X applications. I’m not even sure that those kinds of applications are allowed in the app-store (but I haven’t checked).

If I want to write a website that targets Apple’s devices but also works well on Windows then I’d go with HTML because HTML is the only way I can get true cross-platform reach.

However, if I want to build something more native then I go with Cocoa (Touch) because it gives me richer access to the platform’s capabilities.

You can find some details of why you go down the different routes in the O’Reilly book "Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript” and some of the rationale explained there translates over to the Microsoft platform.

I believe that there’s a similar situation with Java and HTML on Google’s Android platform but, again, I’ve never built an app for it so I’m easy to knock over on that if you tell me otherwise.

Regardless, this multiplicity of APIs seems to be common across platforms.

I drew this picture the other day for the Steve Ballmer event that we did in London as a way of trying to capture that idea that Microsoft has a number of client APIs (not all of them on the picture) and that they meet different needs and need to be compared on a number of axes. You could probably do a similar analysis on APIs that other vendors have for their platforms too;

image

The “tower” of blocks on the right hand side of the picture is meant to imply that there are different ways of targeting the Windows platform and the relative sizing of those blocks is meant to indicate that they offer deeper integration with the underlying operating system and that typically comes by trading off some other aspect of the API.

There are so many different ways to think about these APIs/runtimes for targeting the Windows platform that I think it can become confusing so I thought I’d add a few words to some of the bullets above to try and outline my own thoughts.

Cross Platform, Cross Device Possibilities

If you can do everything you need to do in an HTML/JavaScript based client then you should build one. Pretty much every device out there has a browser that can display HTML, CSS and JavaScript so you get that ubiquity of the runtime.

The same’s true for HTML5. The intention is for this to get adopted pretty much everywhere and so if your client falls within the capabilities of a HTML5 browser then (from the point of view of cross-platform and cross-device potential) you’d go with it.

However, you’d need to factor in some of the other axes that I’ll talk about here because there are trade-offs around HTML/JavaScript and HTML5 just like there are trade-offs around anything else.

Whilst it’s not as far reaching as HTML(5), Silverlight also runs cross-platform to Windows 7, Vista, XP and OS X but doesn’t span out to those platforms like iOS, Android and it is Moonlight rather than Silverlight that reaches out to Linux.

WPF is, of course, a Windows only technology.

Cross Platform, Cross Device Scorecard: HTML (10/10), HTML5 (8/10), Silverlight (5/10), WPF (0/10)

Platform Integration

How much access to the underlying platform does your client application need? Simple examples…

  • On the Windows Phone 7, do you need the contacts list?
  • On a Windows PC do you need to enumerate the network connections?
  • On a PC with Office, do you need to be able to launch Word to do a mail merge?

There’s a million and one examples here – do you need to process touch gestures? do you need control over printing? do you need access to a camera? do you want to be in the system tray? do you need a background service? etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

My tower of blocks above are meant to indicate that an HTML client gives you very little access to the underlying platform. There’s some things you can do but not so much. HTML5 does add a bit more into the mix which is only to be welcomed.

This means that an HTML client won’t always get you to where you need and if you need more access to the underlying platform then you might consider something like Silverlight.

Now, I appreciate that lot of folks will say “I don’t care about the platform – the browser is the platform and if it’s not surfaced in the browser then I don’t need to do it”.

Perfectly reasonable view. It’s not one I happen to agree with and the software sales of companies like Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and many others suggest that there’s a lot of value in integrating well with the platform and/or device that you’re running on.

Silverlight gives you deeper platform integration than HTML and yet remains in the cross-platform space supporting both Windows and OS X.

A simple example would be video. HTML5 includes the <video/> tag but (AFAIK) the specification does not specify what formats of video a browser should support. You can work around it and I’ve even seen workarounds that involve Silverlight Smile.

Beyond that though you get into things like hardware acceleration, streaming, captions, client and server-side playlists and DRM’d content. The sort of functionality that, today, goes beyond the HTML5 specification.

But sometimes you need more than Silverlight can give you.

There’s functionality in Windows that Silverlight does not expose even if you go via the COM-interop route. Simple examples – a system tray application or an application that has multiple windows isn’t really do-able in Silverlight 4.

In that case, I’d look to WPF and build a client on .NET 4.0 as that gets you all of the .NET Framework goodness plus (should you need it) the ability to PInvoke out to pretty much any Windows API – i.e. the whole Windows platform.

Platform Integration Scorecard: HTML (2/10), HTML5 (4/10), Silverlight (7/10), WPF (9/10)

Runtime Deployment

If you’re going to build a client application for a “runtime” ( such as HTML, Silverlight, WPF, Native Windows ) then you need to think about the deployment of that runtime.

1) Is the runtime out there on client devices?

With HTML, it’s an easy answer – “yes”. Pretty much every device out there has a browser that can display HTML and a JavaScript engine that can run code.

It’s harder to say about HTML5 because it’s not yet finished and implementations such as IE9 aren’t finished either so it’s a bit unrealistic to talk about deployment at this point. The netmarketshare site says that about 55% of the world’s browsers today are previous versions of Internet Explorer that do not support HTML5;

image

that’s going to change over time and especially when those users running on Windows XP which lacks IE9 move to something like Windows 7;

image

With Silverlight, it’s not as simple as just saying “yes”.

Silverlight supports Windows XP, Vista, 7 and OS X and runs in IE, Safari, Chrome and FireFox but the runtime needs deploying so there’s a barrier there – you have to get the runtime deployed in the first instance.

According to www.riastats.com Silverlight is deployed to 64% of the browsers that the site has captured for its metrics;

image

so that’s a pretty good place to be after 3 years of releases but, clearly, it’s behind the percentage of users who have a basic browser that can display HTML and JavaScript today.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the same version-specific figures for WPF but the official figure is that 2/3rds of the world’s PCs have WPF installed. It’d be nice to be able to quote the versions though to add a little more to this chart;

image

but it’s worth remembering how many devices that involves as the Windows PC market is “not small” – I think it’s around 1.2 billion PCs so that would mean that a pretty large number of PCs are running some version of WPF.

2) Is the runtime easy to get out there to client devices?

What if your “runtime” isn’t out there? Is it easy to get it installed?

Silverlight is a ~5MB download and a quick install that requires administrator privileges (as to all browser plug-ins) but no reboot of the machine.

WPF comes in two flavours. The ~30MB client profile and the ~60MB full framework. Again, this requires an administrator account and no reboot of the machine for the client profile version.

Different browsers have different installation requirements. The IE9 beta was 19MB of download and requires both an administrator account and a reboot of the machine.

So, there’s not vast amounts of differences between the download & installation here but there are differences in people’s behaviours around the upgrade process…

3) Do users upgrade the runtime when new versions come out?

One of the important questions about a particular runtime is how quickly new versions filter through to users. It’s difficult targeting a platform if you know that your users are on older versions and don’t move quickly as new versions come out.

Silverlight does very well on this – if we look back to that previous picture from RiaStats, 90% of Silverlight users are already on version 4 of the runtime which is only 6 or so months old.

I don’t have version information for WPF so it’s hard to be sure to what extent WPF versions installed onto user’s desktops are fragmented across the versions 3, 3.5, 3.5Sp1 and 4.0.

I know that all Windows Vista deployments started at V3.0 and all Windows 7 deployments started at 3.5Sp1 but I’ve no figures beyond that – it’d be great to get some and I’ll add them to this post if I do.

In terms of browsers, there’s more of a lag. People seem more attached to their browsers or at least have more inertia around updating them. The previous chart suggests that 15% of IE users are still on IE6 which is a relic from 2001 that the IE team are very keen for people to move away from and 10% look to be on IE7 (2006).

That would mean that 25% of browser users are on browsers that are more than 4 years old.

In short, it takes time for users to upgrade their browsers and new versions of the operating system perhaps represent the best way to get new browser versions into the hands of users.

Runtime Deployment Scorecard: HTML (10/10), HTML5 (3/10), Silverlight (7/10), WPF (5/10)

Runtime Agility

How quickly does a client runtime adapt to a changing world?

If a company such as Apple or Microsoft introduces some new concept, how long would it take to get an updated client runtime that incorporates that concept?

As a prime example - it’s amazing to me how prevalent multi-touch user interfaces have become over the past few years.

For a vendor like Microsoft, when new functionality is added to the platform it shows up immediately in the Windows API and then, typically, sections of that new functionality show up in client frameworks like Silverlight and WPF.

As an example – multi-touch support was in Silverlight 3 which shipped in July 2009 before Windows 7 shipped in October 2009.

Multi-touch support was in WPF 4.0 which shipped in April 2010 around 6 months after Windows 7 shipped in October 2009.

These frameworks are being updated pretty quickly as the underlying operating systems gain new capabilities. Naturally, those new versions still remain to be adopted as discussed previously.

By contrast, HTML lives with the standards bodies and represents cross-vendor agreement that moves at a slower pace. That’s not a criticism – I doubt that anyone wants standards that change on a daily, weekly, monthly or perhaps even annual basis.

Now, I believe that this idea of agility also goes hand in hand with the idea of control.

Some folks are happy with vendors (e.g. Microsoft/Apple) being able to define the APIs for their platforms (e.g. Silverlight and Cocoa (Touch)) and other folks would like to stay away from that and stick to what can be agreed via standards.

My own view is that both have their place.

Runtime Agility Scorecard: HTML (2/10), Silverlight (9/10), WPF (7/10)

Runtime Consistency

If you’re building for a runtime then you want to be sure that what you’ve built in your test environment will work exactly the same way in a user’s runtime environment.

There are numerous different browsers implementing numerous different standards on numerous different devices. It’s not surprising that all of those combinations can produce some different results when presented with the same markup.

One of the big themes around IE9 has been the “one markup” idea which aims to try and minimise cross-browser, cross-device inconsistency.

However, if you’re building for HTML today then you have to factor in some inconsistencies (with IE6 being a common whipping boy here) and test for at least the major browsers on the platforms you’re targeting and perhaps produce browser specific variants of your site.

In the long term, HTML5 will no doubt make this a lot better but there are still going to be variations in terms of which vendors implement which features and how they go about implementing those features so that you can ensure that you get a consistent client experience at least within a particular class of device.

For me, the downside of these kinds of efforts is when you see sites like this site which was, apparently;

“designed for Google Chrome”

which seems like the very antithesis of what the standards people are trying to achieve Sad smile

This job of determining features is complex enough to be abstracted by libraries like Modernizer to make it easier but it’s still something that has to be implemented and tested.

If you’re building for a runtime like Silverlight then that’s a single vendor solution so it’s tested by that vendor to work the same way on all the supported platforms and browsers.

Differences are either in the platform by design and documented as such or they’re bugs and so you don’t have to write (e.g.) Silverlight code that varies across Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, 9, FireFox, Safari, Chrome. You rely on Microsoft to do that cross-browser (and cross-platform) testing.

You could argue that some of this sort of compatibility work does come into play when you look cross-device to the Windows Phone 7 as there are differences in the phone/desktop platforms today.

WPF is also on that single-vendor spectrum. Apps written for WPF should work the same way on all systems that have WPF installed although, again, it’s fair to say that hardware capabilities could produce variation (just as they can for pretty much any client that relies on GPU acceleration).

Runtime Consistency Scorecard: HTML (3), HTML5 (TBD!), Silverlight ( 8), WPF (9).

Application Deployment

Application deployment is a headache and it’s one of the reasons why the browser based model of “zero footprint deployment” has been so successful.

If you’re going to write some HTML(5) then you have no trouble deploying your application. You drop the bits on a web server and you’re done.

This is pretty much the same with Silverlight. You drop the XAP on any web server you like and you’re done if the application you’re building runs in a browser. If it runs out of the browser as well then you need to write a little bit of (fairly boiler plate) code in order to get the auto-update experience.

Deployment of WPF applications is more taxing. There are auto-update mechanisms like ClickOnce which I see applications like MetroTwit using but those only go so far in that certain applications can’t be deployed that way and you’re back to requiring a traditional installation which means more work.

Scorecard: HTML (10), HTML5 (10), Silverlight (9), WPF (5)

Developer Model & Tooling

This is a very subjective area. There are millions of developers out there writing .NET code and there are millions of developers out there writing JavaScript and HTML based code.

I’m biased. I like the world of .NET code with its rich metadata that drives great tooling support in Visual Studio and true component-oriented software development. I’ve also grown pretty accustomed to being able to separate out UI from code and make use of tooling like Expression Blend on top of that.

However, I know that’s not everyone’s view and a bunch of folks prefer the dynamic nature of JavaScript on the client-side and a variety of techniques for HTML generation on the server-side.

Developer Model & Tooling: You decide.

Summary

This has been a long post and I don’t expect that many people read all of it or agree with it, it’s just my view.

What was I trying to say?

  1. Microsoft supports both Silverlight and HTML(5).
  2. There are strengths to Silverlight.
  3. There are strengths to HTML and HTML(5).
  4. I believe there is a need both for runtimes offering cross-platform standards support and for runtimes that have deeper integration with the underlying platform/device capabilities
    1. I see Microsoft doing this with HTML(5), Silverlight, WPF, XNA.
    2. I see companies like Apple doing this with HTML(5), Cocoa (Touch) for their iOS platform
    3. I see companies like Google doing this with HTML(5), Java for their Android platform

The way I see it, the fundamentals that were written up in the “Future of Silverlight” blog post haven’t changed – Silverlight still occupies a great place today and, whilst remaining deliberately vague, I see it growing out very nicely in the future.


Posted Mon, Nov 1 2010 9:36 AM by mtaulty
Filed under: , ,

Comments

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 12:24 AM

It's good to have this kind of deep clarification - but you gotta admit, it was simply the way BobMu said it that it was picked up and interpreted that way. All he has to say is "Sorry for the way I may have misdirected things and the confusion created with the way I said it originally, but...". Acknowledge the personal blunder instead of a thousand press releases and blogs about the subject. I am far, far from being an anti-Microsoft person (I worked there for 10 years and still love the company), but I heard it the way the so-called "anti-Microsoft" people did. Just some personal accountability from BobMu is all that is really in order here.

Cory wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 12:33 AM

Damage limitation.

Sorry Mike, but your Exec's messaging has been rubbish on this. Bob M's little detour at the PDC *should* upset people as it really stressed Silverlight as a proprietary phone platform and if HTML 5 was the real future for RIA. (A phone app framework, on the worlds 8th biggest market - seriously?) So when HTML 5 arrives on Mobile IE 9 on WP7 then what's the story going to be then, perhaps Silverlight for the new Microsoft tablet?

You've changed message, 'realigned' as they say - trying to pretend nothing has happened in terms of how you are aiming at the 'RIA middle-ground' is disingenuous to say the least.

Some of your readers bet on Silverlight and if I was them I would be pretty upset, regardless of whatever employees have been told to blog about. Some of them bet on winforms (oh dear!), and then they bet of WPF as well (doh!). The Microsoft 'what to program for the desktop' story has changed practically ever year I've been watching it, and to those that thought that 'Silverlight is our future' are either naive or deserved victims.

john price wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 12:57 AM

Nice article. Includes a facimile of a conversation I seem to have on a regular basis, that browser=good, all else=bad

Tad Anderson wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:30 AM

I do not need to pay 5K a year to maintain a software license just so MS can help me develop HTML 5. EVERYONE will be doing that. If they have nothing special to offer, like Silverlight, then have nothing to offer.

This has been a very bad day for those of us out here supporting and pushing for SL development.  MS needs to wake up.

The rest of the thought...

realworldsa.dotnetdevelopersjournal.com/silverlightisdeadlonglivehtml5reallyhtml5.htm

Ryan Plemons wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:48 AM

This is an awesome post. You hit the nail on the head. People that jumped the gun saying that Silverlight was dead were misinformed at best, malicious at worst.

Thank you for this well thought out post.

Hybridweb wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:56 AM

Mike,

Do you know if Silverlight will ever get access to the task-parallel functionality that's available in .NET4? A positive answer to that question would probably go a long way toward alleviating some of the recent angst surrounding SL and HTML5 (especially as that chackra JS engine in IE9 will apparently have some sort of parallel execution support).

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 5:24 AM

Very informative article Thanks for the info

Mick N wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 5:29 AM

Hi Mike,

Enjoyed your article, amid much confusing banter circulating at the moment.. most of which I haven't made time to read in detail yet.

The feeling I've been getting was summed up in your initial point 2...

... my thinking while reading the circulations since PDC kept going back to the Silverlight positioning statement made a month or two ago (sorry link not handy).

I keep wondering has that position changed? Everything I'm reading does not seem to refute that positioning.. I keep wondering if a lot of people's minds would be set to ease of there was reassurance that the positioning in that release has not changed.

Hopefully I haven't overlooked an important detail in this thinking as I've not had as much time this week as I would have liked to review everything coming out of PDC. But I thought it was worth a mention somewhere...

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 6:27 AM

Too bad you decided not to publish my comment about just having BobMu apologize and be done with it. Looks like Somasegar just did that on his blog

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 7:33 AM

Brilliant summary! If Bob, Ballmer, or any other senior manager at Microsoft came out with this response over the weekend, this whole thing would have been a complete non-event.

Tim Acheson wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 8:12 AM

Well said. If we relied upon native browser functionality and HTML, the evolution of the web would slow down to such an extent, it would almost halt. This has always been true, and it will remain true in the foreseeable future. HTML5 is a major advancement in web technology; but it's not even finalised yet, adoption will be slow and prohibitively inconsistent, and even 5 years from now it won't offer everything that Silveright does now.

Plug-ins are an essential component of the web, and Silveright is by far the best of the plug-ins for developers and users.

Steve W wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 9:04 AM

Nice post MIke. As you say, Silverlight isn't a replacement for HTML, but for certain applications it's not just a good choice, it's far and away the best choice. In the company I've been working with recently, we have been able to release three Silverlight components as modules for their HTML (asp.net) based product offering. Those Silverlight components are working for customers right now (inside the larger html app) delivering client side, processor intensive application functionality handling real-time on screen manipulation of tens of thousands of aggregated complex objects that would have been much more difficult (I'd hazard a guess at impossible) to build efficiently with HTML / Javascript. For these apps, the right choice was Silverlight.

Would I build a whole client facing web site in Silverlight? No, I don't believe it's intended for that. Horses for courses.

Incidentally, the Silverlight apps are being used on both Windows and Mac OS desktops across various browsers with no problems - we didn't have to do any special work for browser / OS compatibility, it all just worked. You can't often say the same about a HTML app!

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 9:07 AM

Hi,

A couple of comments.

Firstly, *no one* told me to write this blog post.

On the question of investment in Silverlight - yes, I've made that investment too.

On the question of me not publishing blog comments - I only delete comments that are either offensive, advertisements or gibberish so your comment should be here somewhere.

On the question of TPL - I think there's already an implementation of TPL for Silverlight in the Rx extensions so you could take a look at that?

Mike.

Mike.

pauliom wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 10:15 AM

I think the opening quote says it all. The damage of the statements from PDC and from other ex-MS employees is done, it's now out there and confidence in SL has been eroded. Unfortunately "today" there is little place for rational arguments like this post. The best thing now is for MS to publically push the RIA roadmap, not rely on blog posts that are just wallowing in the same pool as all the negative press. I want to see full blown roadmap on the front page of MSDN. I want to see a simple flowchart for business' to make it clear what technology to select. I want to see MS invest in the marketing of this topic otherwise all the good work from people like Mike will just be for nothing.

Hybridweb wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 10:20 AM

Ex extensions.... I'll take a look. (Humorist in me is tempted to observe about Rx for a sick SL... But just tempted)

Oleg wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:29 PM

I really appreciate your post but I think you are realy wrong at the core, sorry. It is a real shift in Microsft strategy and latter explanation of BobMu confirms that. The only thing he "tweaked" is undelrining of "we will continue tio invest to SL" message. But the main message is unchanged - SL is strategically out as a Web and cross-platform technology, and HTML5 is in.

I don't want to discuss the choice itself and franklly I think there is not much choice for MS here.

But revealing it could definetely be done in other way with some care of MS customers who made a bet on SL exactly as a web and cross-platform technology (the vision promoted by MS itself).

I would  personally think that having SL compiler to HTML5/JS/CSS first and declaring this shift after would be the best approach.

Joe wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:51 PM

On your last point - I think the development platform is incomplete.  You say some prefer scriping and others prefer .NET.  But what about the years of development in .NET as a platform that now cannot be used in HTML5.  It's a switch in strategy without any developer support.

Jason wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 1:53 PM

As always Mike....you have nailed it.  Keep up the great work and this is my first time posting and have to say your video tutorials are the best out here and MSFT should give you a raise.  Your prism videos convinced me to take a look and I'm so glad I did.  You made a rather complex topic very digestible and easy to follow.

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 4:06 PM

How about XBAP for WPF deployment - you can just run WPF in a browser, much like silverlight

Tom wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 5:03 PM

Excellent work, Mike.  That first image in particular really sums up how the different technologies fit into the bigger picture, at least on one important axis.  Having done substantial development with all of them, I can appreciate how each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Sadly, many people commenting on this whole mess seem to expect Microsoft to do their jobs for them and hold their hands every step of the way.  It's a complex world out there and the only guarantee in this line of work is change.  Not that there's even a big change going on right now, but if there was, people should be better prepared to deal with it anyway.

I agree with whoever characterized these responses as misinformed at best, malicious at worst.  This event has really exposed the nastiness of many of the developers who rely on Microsoft.  I want, I want, I want.  You'll get nothing and like it!

Mizoy wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 7:03 PM

I think Microsoft and Adobe have been/are/should be working on a Flash/Blend -like applications which uses Interactive SVG + JS + HTML5 instead of XAML and C# / ActionScript.

Using these technologies plus a cool JS libraries/frameworks from Microsoft/Adobe developers will be able to EASILY make all kind of applications they have to make today with Silverlight and Flash/Flex.

But this of course won't kill Flash/Silverlight soon, it may kill them after five years or so IF they do not provide more and more NEW UNIQUE features, like true 3D support..etc.

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 7:57 PM

XBAP is not cross platform !!!

Anonymous wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Tue, Nov 2 2010 10:49 PM

Concerning the browser-update behavior of your users, it's interesting that firefox users seem to adopt quite quick to a new version. That's may be related to issues like reboot/admin privileges?

Further more, I'd be interested in additional comparisons to other RIA frameworks such as Flex/Air or JavaFX.

asif wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 6:16 AM

I think those people who are thinking that silverlight is going to vanish or comparing Silverlight with HTML5; they should study first "What is RIA framework? What is Flex Air? What is JavaFX?"

MSDN Belux Team Blog wrote Silverlight going forward
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 11:23 AM

Last Friday during PDC 2010, President of the Server and Tools Division at Microsoft, Bob Muglia was

Kevin Ritchie wrote Silverlight...should developers bother?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 1:56 PM

Silverlight...should developers bother?

Naim Bentahar wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 2:11 PM

Your post explains really well the different pros and cons of using the different APIs available to Microsoft Developers including Silverlight. However, the most important part of the whole debacle was not addressed in your post that is the fact that Silverlight is not anymore considered cross-platform and will only be supported for Windows and Macs.

The nice slide you've included does not address the issue of running Silverlight under a different platform other than Windows or Mac. This is the real SHIFT that BobMu was referring to and the one that you've conveniently avoided to address.  

Shai wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 2:27 PM

Great article!

I absolutely agree with you.

Doctor G. wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 2:55 PM

IMHO I think the issue is this: Imagine your are Telerik or Infragistics, and you have just hear that an MS VP state that Silverlight is still alive, but it is the no longer choice for the WIDEST deployment of RIA apps. That means the huge investment (marketing, engineering, sales, etc.) I just put into my Silverlight Controls is now for a niche market that is Microsoft only (don't tell me that Silverlight 1.0 on Apple or Moonlight are real choices).

Even those of us who are individual developers were counting on the widest market for our work. Right now, that ground is being ceded to Adobe Air [Android, Mac, PC, etc.) (and I used to be a Adobe MVP in Flash :-(  and I decided to invest in Silverlight skills).

I think this is the pain. I can no longer say that my products are really going to be write once, run anywhere. That space for Microsoft tools is the currently vaporware HTML5.

Does that clarify why this is such an outcry about the decision?

The Luddite Developer wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 3:18 PM

I agree with Cory's comments about poor communication from Microsoft.

Certain IE9 product managers have made comments pitting HTML5 against Silverlight.  Pure ignorance.

Tim Heure, Pete Brown, Laurent Bugnion, yourself and many others have stood their ground and have made many positive comments, however the message coming out of Microsoft Corporate is ambiguous to say the least.

The proof that the message is ambiguos is that we have this current storm in a teacup. If you like, a veritable developers teaparty with all the madness that current teaparties entail.

So which of those Silverlight luminaries I named earlier is going to march into Steve Ballmers office and instuct him to get everyone back on message.

Kevin Ritchie wrote Silverlight...should developers give up?!?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 5:05 PM

Silverlight...should developers give up?!?

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 6:22 PM

Naim,

You said;

"Silverlight is not anymore considered cross-platform and will only be supported for Windows and Macs"

Silverlight was only *ever* supported for Windows and Macs with a caveat around Moolight for Linux.

I don't know that anyone (certainly not me) ever promised Silverlight on anything other than Windows or Macs.

Whether I would *like* to see Silverlight on other platforms is or whether people *thought* that they would see Silverlight on other platforms is another question.

Thanks,

Mike.

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 6:23 PM

The Luddite Developer,

In the interests of honesty and full disclouse - I certainly won't be walking into Steve Ballmer's office and instructing him on anything.

Mike.

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 3 2010 6:25 PM

Doctor G,

I hear your comment here - not much I can say about Silverlight being on any platforms other than the Windows and OS X platforms it is on right now.

Thanks,

Mike.

tzerb wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 1:58 AM

First of all, your training vids on ch9 are amazing.  Head and shoulders above anyone else in the industry.  Second, the stuff coming out Microsoft is truly amazing.  It's productive and very well engineered.  

But I think you need to read BETWEEN the lines.

The quotes that I picked up were:

But when it comes to touting Silverlight as Microsoft’s vehicle for delivering a cross-platform runtime, “our strategy has shifted,” Muglia told me.

...

“But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform,” Muglia said.

He may as well have well titled the PDC  "We want you to develop for Windows Phone 7 until we kill that too."

Rich Bianco (aka DisplacedGuy) wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 4:04 AM

Hi Mike,

I enjoyed your article very much. Ever since the rumors have been floating about Silverlight being a Windows Phone tool I've been worried about investing too much time learning Silverlight, on the other hand I think Silverlight is one of the best platforms for rich internet applications (cross platform). I came from a PowerBuilder background so am used to tools offering a lot of productivity, Silverlight is my favorite by far.

If you don't mind me asking, did you create this blog template/design yourself?  I like it a lot and want to convert mine to a two column design.

I'll be back again for sure.

Sincerely

Rich

Mike wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 5:36 AM

One idea I've seen floating around is if Microsoft is thinking of targeting HTML 5 as a runtime. So instead of compiling a Silverlight app to be run on top of the Silverlight plugin it would instead be compiled into HTML 5/CSS3/JS.

I think this would explain Microsoft's large investment in helping w3c develop such a detailed testing suite for HTML 5.

Eric Wroolie wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 6:59 AM

Every time someone makes it sound like it's an either/or situation for learning Silverlight or HTML5, developers stumble about not knowing what to do.  If Silverlight wasn't lumped with Flash and it had some iPad support, none of this would be an issue.  I appreciate the simplicity of Silverlight and don't want to go back to using a hodgepodge of html and javascript to simulate the things that are easy in Silverlight.  

What bothers me most is whether this comparison will be made by future clients and employers.

René Baron wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 7:01 AM

From my point of view the Silverlight/HTML discussion is where Adobe has been ten years ago with their Flash technology and - maybe more comparable to Silverlight - six years ago with the dawn of their Flash based Flex development framework.

So it might be a good idea, to re-read the old Adobe articles from these times, where Adobe has created and coined the term "Rich Internet Application" Microsoft just tries to catch up with.

I am fond of Silverlight and happy that Silverlight is finally a comparable alternative to the Flash/Flex Framework I, as a Microsoft developer, had to choose years ago, because Microsoft had nothing to offer in the area - till now.

So the Microsoft community should not reinvent the wheel but learn from the pioneers.

Ian Blackburn wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 8:57 AM

Great post Mike - balanced and on the money.  Moreover it has has a massive impact on me today - I immediately dug out my copy of "blood on the tracks" - what an album!

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 10:21 AM

tzerb,

Thanks for the feedback - much appreciated. Naturally, we all read between the lines and we read different things when we do that :-)

Mike.

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 10:22 AM

Rich,

No - this site runs on Community Server and the skin came from a guy called Andrew Belon (http://www.andrewbelon.com/) although the website looks like it might have gone away.

Mike.

Ted Wise wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 1:23 PM

Silverlight was positioned (at least in the minds of business developers) as the cross-platform, rich-client web development environment. HTML was for the simple web apps. According to Microsoft, the growth of mobile devices means that Silverlight can no longer be relied upon to be cross-platform. They state that Silverlight has it's uses, but if you want to build a web app that's both rich-client and cross-platform you need to be doing HTML5.

Business developers feel like Microsoft is giving up in pushing Silverlight everywhere (and they're right). Adobe is running as fast as they can to push Flash into every nook and cranny. Personally, I feel it's a losing battle, but they're visibly trying. Microsoft isn't. Ironically, Microsoft is taking what I believe is a much more realistic approach.

The problem isn't the words. What came out of Microsoft isn't actually a change at all. Silverlight is still supported in the browser and it's the environment of choice for Windows Phone 7. What's got the developers worked up is the perceived fallout, that since Microsoft is driving toward mobile as fast and as hard as they can, the web support for Silverlight is going to lay fallow. And let's be honest, that perception is probably correct.

The final result is that people who chose Silverlight as a solution for web rich-client development were just made extremely nervous about the long-term viability for Silverlight on the web. If they went Silverlight to start with, presumably they don't like Flash or feel it's a substandard technology. And now Microsoft is stating that HTML5 is the better choice for much of what these developers thought was Silverlight's sweet spot.

In the past Microsoft (among others) was famous for the tactic of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). They've just done it to themselves. Especially in the business arena, no one wants to use a technology that's _perceived_ as dead. Because the intent for most apps is a long life. Microsoft knows this better then most so when they make statements like these, everyone starts running for the exits.

P. Jacobsen wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 8:07 PM

SILVERLIGHT LITE?

Perhaps MS should consider releasing a lightweight SL runtime for low power handheld devices. This make great sense, because these small screen interfaces normally use fancy animations with just a minimal input control set, and a lightweight runtime would allow MS to easily port SL to a large number of low power devices.

The apparent problem now is that SL is rather weighted with features -- many of which are appropriate only in larger screen environs, and this limits the potential device audience. This is likely why WP7 required a more robust engine. Perhaps a simple solution would be to offer WP7 with the full runtime, but publish lightweight runtimes for the rest of the mobile universe. This would give WP7 a control set edge, and at the same time, would allow most (efficiently coded) apps to cover the bulk of the device universe.

The iPhone and other market-significant proprietary boxes will quite likely be pressed by market forces or lawsuits into support other runtimes, such as Flash and SL. A lightweight runtime option makes SL more palatable to these vendors, since they wish to protect product performance perceptions, but at the same, wish to enjoy revenues from app sales.

Worth considering?

Dusappearing Edge wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 8:09 PM

Too bad. I think these bureaucrats at Microsoft don't even have a clue as to what they had. After having coded for seven+ years in HTML/Java, it was so wonderful to work with such a concise programming model. Silverlight business logic performance was easily 100x faster than Java, and the rendering sooo smooth, not to mention ***reliable***. HTML/Java is prone to failure and performance neutering with very large pages and scripts, and drag-drop becomes experimental. I wish they'd take Silverlight and sell it a company who would appreciate and capitalize on owning it... like Apple or Google!

Russ wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 8:11 PM

With MS denouncing commitment to Silverlight as a web solution, developers won't develop Silverlight apps just for the Windows Phone 7 because it's a small/non-existent market. Thusly, WP7 will likely die as result of this announcement.

Silverlight was a fantastic tool that gave developers an edge against the HTML "standard". Standards are a joke. Innovation wins every time. Look at the iPhone, a totally non-standard interface that took the market by storm.

This is just crazy. If MS had any foresight, they would port SL to platforms AS THEY BECOME SUCCESSFUL (there aren't many).

Phil Jacobsen wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 4 2010 8:15 PM

BTW --- nice work in navigating towards a clearer perspective. Much appreciated.

Advantage: Silverlight wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Sat, Nov 6 2010 4:34 PM

We’re developing a high-end project management suite, and found HTML/JS impossible to use for responsive interactive scheduling calculation, so we investigated Silverlight. We found that Silverlight outperforms HTML/JS by well over 100x in computation and rendering. The user experience of our Silverlight app offers clear advantage over the competitions HTML/JS apps both in performance and capability (for example, none offer real time cross-project resource leveling). The net-net of it being HTML/JS was simply inadequate for our application.

Silverlight provides a true client-side programming model, whereas HTML/JS is server centric, thus, they are two entirely different beasts. We certainly recommend Silverlight over HTML/JS for business app development where interactive graphics and complex client-side math is involved. On the other hand, HTML has been, and will remain the choice for generic web presence, for example, general use websites, advertising, etc.

We're happy to hear MS is committed to Silverlight - the very best client-side tool available. Scott Gu has just posted a confident summary of MS Silverlight commitment entitled "Silverlight Questions".

Russ B wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Sun, Nov 7 2010 1:30 PM

It's been a rough few days, but I'm happy to hear you guys are as committed as we are. We have invested a lot of time and effort with Silverlight on several projects, and this gives us confidence to continue with Silverlight.

My associates who has been programming for as long as I have (decades) are all extremely excited about Silverlight. We agree that the name should be "SilverBullet" as someone suggested here, because it is orders of magnitude more powerful than HTML/JS. You can't even compare the two, because SL has the abridged .Net library built in, which gives you enormous client-side power for biz apps, and the performance difference is surreal. SL is best development tool I have seen in decades, and the results blow the competition out of the water.

I think MSFT should make a strong official announcement with regards to SL commitment to repair the damage Muglia and Foley caused.

anehra63 wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 10 2010 10:31 AM

Nice comparision thanks for sharing bro

David wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 10 2010 4:05 PM

Silverlight has so many advantages over HTML; however, it has an Achilles heel of market penetration - without significant (above 90%) market penetration on desktop browsers Silverlight will not survive on the desktop and if Silverlight does not survive on the desktop, it certainly will not survive on WP7.  

Silverlight is the major reason to develop on WP7 so the lack of desktop browsers penetration will mean that Silverlight will not survive on WP7 which means WP7 will not survive.

Silverlight can only survive if Microsoft enthusiastically supports Silverlight with both a major marketing and engineering effort - the lack of marketing support from Microsoft is very discouraging!

Silverlight does not need to run everywhere - just on the most in-demand browser/platforms (Android is an in-demand platform - Slates will make iPad less important).

Silverlight has so many advantages over HTML:

   - State on the client's machine is huge

   - Great user responses on the client machine without a round trip to the server

   - Great language support such as C#

   - Great libraries

   - Great development tools

Reality is not nearly as important as perception - and the perception right now is that Microsoft will support HTML 5 over Silverlight which will kill Silverlight.

Microsoft must fully support HTML 5; however, at the same time Microsoft need to enthusiastically support Silverlight as a much better more capable technology.

Microsoft is making a very serious blunder if they allow Silverlight to die.

David Roh

Joe wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Sat, Nov 13 2010 8:43 PM

David - using your logic the only phone to survice will be one running Google Chrome.  Which doesn't (and probably won't) exist.  Nobody is doing serious development for the phone in HTML5 in large numbers.  I don't think this will change.  There's better ways to support write once run anywhere - if that's the real goal.

I think the point from the PDC is that Silverlight was the client 'everywhere' story - now it's not.  HTML5 is now the reach, Silverlight is going to be tailored to the platform that it's running on.  I don't think (yet) that this also means that the development framework should also be HTML5/JavaScript - just the runtime environment.

Harald N wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 18 2010 12:01 PM

So to me.... this makes it very clear, Silverlight is NOT  a cross platform solution at all, it supports Windows and mac but as always you choose to ignore the Linux world. Don't you think it actually would be a benefit to Microsoft to make proper cross-platform support for some of your software.

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Thu, Nov 18 2010 3:33 PM

Harald N,

Novell offers support for Silverlight on Linux via the Moonlight project.

I suspect the decision comes down to having limited resources that have to be allocated based on market share.

The figures over here www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx

say that Windows is at 91% and Mac at 5% but Linux is at 0.86% so I suspect the demand for implementing for Linux wasn't there.

That's just my view, not some "official" view.

Mike.

Franck Jeannin wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Mon, Nov 22 2010 10:23 AM

Excellent post, well written and well researched.

As for my own contribution to the debate, I have done some benchmarking between HTML5 (JavaScript) and Silverlight (as well as WPF) on http://www.exgeekblog.com

Shared Points for SharePoint wrote Silverlight–HTML 5
on Wed, Nov 24 2010 7:55 AM

A good article on the topic can be found at Mike Taulty’s Blog post Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really

Pazu wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 24 2010 9:29 AM

Maybe you are unaware of Flash-world. Take look firts and then try to analyze, please. Your article is a piece of PR.

mtaulty wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Wed, Nov 24 2010 9:47 AM

Pazu,

Could you elaborate?

I just did a search and I don't think I mentioned Flash once - this article was about Silverlight and HTML5.

So, given that you've introduced Flash maybe you can explain what it is that I'm missing?

Thanks,

Mike.

UK ISV Developer Evangelism Team wrote Slides and links from the UK ISV Community Day on the 25th of November 2010
on Thu, Nov 25 2010 2:37 PM

[This is a placeholder – it will be updated after the 25th with all the presentations etc] A big thanks

Stephen wrote re: Silverlight *versus* HTML5? Really?
on Mon, Dec 6 2010 6:19 PM

I have to say, after watching Microsoft let the "real" compact framework and smart device development go silently into the night, and now seeing MS do the same for Silverlight, well Microsoft has me concerned.

We need to get a bit more notification of what the planned changes are.

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