Most people who pay attention to the emerging world of technology and gadgets might be familiar with Apple’s famous hardline stance on refusing to configure its iOS products to play Flash in mobile Safari web browsers, seemingly more than willing to cut off iPhone and iPad users from such things as embedded videos and Zynga games on Facebook, while other smartphones such as Android and Blackberry systems are more than willing to make Flash enabled mobile browsers. Apple’s explanation was that Flash was buggy, used too much battery life and was on its way out anyway. Some mention was even made of the emerging technology from Microsoft, Silverlight, as a replacement for Flash, and that web designers should start optimizing their web pages for Silverlight instead of Flash.
To further understand what you, as a web designer, should do about the Flash vs. Silverlight debate, and which to choose for your own web design, it is important to understand the basics of both. To begin with, Flash is far more established than Silverlight and existing webpages with embedded media already make more use of Flash than anything else. Silverlight, although new, however makes more efficient use of web browser limitations and optimizes the resulting object more easily than Flash in many cases.
An example would be in how the two render animation. Flash makes use of a frame-per-second rendering, which means if you want something to move across your screen in a certain amount of time, you must calculate the frames per second it will take to do so. Silverlight allows the same thing based on a set amount of time, instead of how many frames per second, allowing more flexibility for the web designer to define where and how long an animation should run.
Flash files are usually compressed, while Silverlight files are not, so while Silverlight might be more flexible, its files are usually larger. Flash will support multiple vide formats, while Silverlight is limited to WMV and WMA only, at the time of this writing. Flash will support Microsoft operating systems as well as Mac and Linux, while Silverlight only supports Microsoft and Mac but not Linux. Flash will support nearly every image format currently available, while Silverlight only supports PNG and JPEG formats. Perhaps the biggest hangup to Silverlight, however, is that Flash supports webcam and microphones, while Silverlight does not.
As you can see, Silverlight is very much in its infancy and still has many features it must offer in order to be compatible with Flash. If you are looking to design your web page with a lot of media and interactivity, at the time, Flash is the way to go. It will be your choice whether to optimize your web page for mobile browsers that do not support Flash, but even iOS users are finding ways around the Flash restriction Apple has imposed on its devices, showing the web design world that even those limited by Flash still prefer it to Silverlight.