HTML5 vs. Silverlight: Which Will Win?Nov 10, 2009 In Development By Joshua Allen
Every now and then, someone asks me, “Which technology will win: HTML5 or Silverlight?”, or “What is Silverlight’s strategy to compete with HTML5?”.
I always have to take a deep breath before responding, because these questions presuppose something that doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s like asking a tool store owner, “Which will win, hammers or screwdrivers?”, or “How will you prevent hammers from making screwdrivers obsolete?”
Some important folks in the industry have argued that HTML5 is a Silverlight-killer, or that Silverlight exists to prevent HTML from advancing. These are dramatic claims that only heighten conflict in an industry afflicted by fictionalized Zarathustrian “black versus white” stories.
The Right Tool for the Job
Microsoft ships the world’s most popular HTML client. Despite the HTML5 specification being a work in progress, we implemented several HTML5 features in our most recent browser. Microsoft has co-chaired the HTML5 working group in W3C since its inception, and we remain active participants. And our browser will continue to be the dominant HTML standards implementation for the foreseeable future.
Likewise, we continue to invest heavily in Silverlight development and deployment. If Silverlight and HTML are mortally opposed,as the story goes,we must be crazy to invest so heavily in both, right? Wrong.
As with development languages, there is no single development platform for every job. HTML5 will be fantastic for some scenarios, while Silverlight will be great for others. Besides Internet Explorer and Silverlight, we ship a bunch of other platforms, including XNA and DirectX for game developers, WPF and .NET, Win32, and others. We have the depth and breadth to be best in class, no matter what platform developers want to use.
Opportunism vs. Reality
So, why do certain people propagate this myth? Do they really want a monoculture world where there is only one platform for every job? Or are they truly arguing from an idealistic or religious viewpoint, as some of their arguments would suggest?
In my opinion, it’s a lot simpler than all of that: those who argue that HTML5 will supplant everything else tend to be companies who have nothing else. If you only sell hammers, you might as well try to convince people that there are no such things as screws. And you can drive awareness for your newly-incorporated hammer store by telling tales of intrigue and conflict between hammers and screwdrivers. But the fact that these arguments are often couched in conspiracy theories or ideology, suggests that they are primarily opportunistic marketing ploys, and not motivated by pragmatic technical reality.
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