Is Silverlight 2 catching up with Flash?

As Adobe and Microsoft come out with new releases of their respective multimedia platforms, the debate rages on among developers over which is the most viable. And Flash's proponents are using Linux as their trump card.

One indisputable fact for now is that, while Flash works across both Windows and Linux, the same really can't be said for Silverlight. Moonlight, a free and open source edition of Silverlight, is still under development by the Mono Project, seemingly with no end in sight.

In other departments, though, Silverlight and Flash appear to keep gradually catching up with one another's strengths.

Essentially, Flash was originally created for developing animations based on frames, whereas Silverlight is an efficient framework with good facilities for animations, wrote Jesse Ezell, in a widely read blog posting from mid-2007.

More recently, though, developer Brajeshwar Oinam has has challenged Ezell to reassess that comparison, especially in light of Adobe's release of Flash 9.

"Here is my personal reply to Jess Ezell," Oinam said. "Your statement is true for Flash 4. Please upgrade your statement. Adobe Flash is currently five versions ahead of your statement."

Meanwhile, earlier this week, even Ryan Stewart -- a former industry analyst who just joined Adobe -- admitted to being impressed by some of the new capabilities in Silverlight 2, as demoed at the MIX 08 show in Las Vegas this week.

"I saw some cool things and a few not so much things," Ryan wrote in his blog on ZDNet. "[Microsoft showed] versions of Silverlight 2 Beta, Internet Explorer 8, Expression Studio 2 Beta, and hooks for Silverlight and Visual Studio."

In Stewart's view, the "cool things" in Silverlight included adaptive streaming -- for providing the best user experience based on the system -- and a deep zooming feature, for instance.

"Silverlight penetration is coming along at a rate of 1.5 million downloads a day and growing. That should get them to their number of 200 million downloads by June of this year," according to Stewart. "Flash has about 12 million downloads a day for comparison, but I think that's a very good number for Microsoft."

Meanwhile, the Mono Project's cross-platform Moonlight has yet to see the full light of day.

Way back in June 2007, developer Miguel de Icaza said that the Mono Project would produce its first results in a mere couple of weeks, with support for the Firefox browser on GNU/Linux by the end of that year.

Yet although an IDE named Lunar Eclipse does exist in SVN version control, the goals behind Moonlight are still on their way toward reaching full fruition.

In the weeks before MIX, the Mono Project worked on Moonlight in a number of areas, according to de Icaza.

"We needed more control over the pipeline to implement things like media streaming and supporting seek operations over HTTP," de Icaza wrote in his blog earlier this week. "We want to be able to relicense the code under non-LGPL terms (for people than cannot use the LGPL for some commercial uses), and we need to plug Microsoft's Media Pack media decoders," he illustrated.

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