OpenSilver offers Microsoft Silverlight developers a lifeline as end of support looms – or you might forget it’s already happened • The Register


Microsoft Silverlight, now only supported in the old Internet Explorer, is coming to an end of life on October 12, but an open source project called OpenSilver has emerged to convert Silverlight projects to WebAssembly.

Silverlight is a plugin developed by Microsoft in what now appears to be an alternate universe, while Adobe Flash seemed to become the de facto platform for multimedia and a serious competitor for cross-platform client applications.

The first version of Silverlight appeared in 2007 as a media player, but was quickly followed by versions that included a scaled-down .NET runtime and could run both in the browser and on the desktop, on Windows and Mac (the jack support for Linux has been claimed but never fully delivered). Silverlight content and applications were defined in XAML, a lightweight version of Windows Presentation Foundation. Silverlight has also become the application execution engine on Windows Phone.

That all changed in 2010 when the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs posted his thoughts on Flash (now sadly removed from Apple’s website) confirming that Flash would not be supported on iOS. “Adobe’s goal isn’t to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod, and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross-platform applications, ”he wrote.

With the removal of this key platform, the industry’s attention shifted to HTML 5 and JavaScript for multimedia and browser-integrated applications. Later that year, Microsoft’s Bob Muglia, then president of Server and Tools, admitted that Silverlight was also the wrong direction, saying “our strategy has changed.” The last major release was Silverlight 5.0 in December 2011.

But there was a period when Silverlight looked like Microsoft’s direction of travel for cross-platform and browser-hosted apps, and a lot of developers put their efforts into it. Some of them may still be ongoing today, but if so, time is running out.

“Microsoft Silverlight will reach end of support on October 12, 2021,” the company said. “The Silverlight development framework is currently only supported on Internet Explorer 10 and Internet Explorer 11, with support for Internet Explorer 10 ending January 31, 2020. There is no longer support for Chrome , Firefox or any browser using the Mac operating system. “

Silverlight applications can continue to function, but the installer will no longer be available. Determined users should also note that IE 11 will no longer be supported on June 15, 2022, although IE mode in Edge will continue.

There is another option (besides rewriting everything in JavaScript). OpenSilver is a reimplementation of Silverlight that runs in modern browsers using WebAssembly. It is open source and linked to another project, CSHTML5, which compiles C # and XAML into JavaScript and HTML.

According to the doc: “The general principle of migrating a Silverlight application to OpenSilver consists of creating an OpenSilver type project for each of the original Silverlight projects, then copying / pasting all the files from the original projects to the OpenSilver projects, and finally compile the solution. “

The company behind OpenSilver, Userware, warned that “many compilation errors are expected, as OpenSilver currently supports a subset of Silverlight features.” There is also an issue with third party components like Telerik or DevExpress. Sometimes these companies offer a loosely equivalent HTML / JavaScript component, in which case the code can be overridden.

OpenSilver showcase includes interoperability examples and a WebView control

OpenSilver showcase includes interoperability examples and a WebView control

The OpenSilver Showcase has many supported features including an impressive array of panels and controls including DataGrid and tab control, .NET capabilities including file management, Linq and AysncAwait, storage access isolated, use of SOAP and REST web services, and support for WebSockets.

OpenSilver promises to release a “full version” on October 12 – when Silverlight is no longer supported. That said, a quick glance at the repository suggests that this is a work in progress, with the main focus being the extent of the subset of Silverlight that works. On the to-do list is a new layout system, support for Visual Basic, migration of WPF applications, and even support for Microsoft LightSwitch, an ill-fated but once promising development tool.

OpenSilver developers are also eagerly awaiting the Ahead-of-Time (AoT) compilation for Microsoft Blazor, coming in .NET 6.0. Blazor also runs C # in a web browser through WebAssembly, and OpenSilver uses it. According to its press release: “The beta can now use AoT compilation for up to 15 times improved performance compared to the first version.

The existence of OpenSilver shows how Microsoft’s various focus changes in its development platform have left some users stuck with dead-end technologies – see Visual Studio Tools for Office for another example.

That said, the advent of .NET Core as well as Blazor means that there are now a number of options for running .NET code on multiple platforms or in the browser. Another option for Silverlight is the Uno platform, and there is a migration guide.

Why not just forget about Silverlight? Since some migration work is probably needed, wouldn’t it make more sense to port to a full HTML and JavaScript application, or use Microsoft’s official Blazor solution?

This OpenSilver showcase shows Silverlight content rendered in HTML and JavaScript - but does not work on an iPad

This OpenSilver showcase shows Silverlight content rendered in HTML and JavaScript – but does not work on an iPad

“We are .NET developers who believe Silverlight is the best platform ever for business application development (LOB),” the press release said. “More than a decade after Microsoft’s ‘change of strategy’, there are those who don’t want to give up on it.”

However, we have found that the Showcase does not perform well on an iPad. Maybe by the time of “full release” it will. ®


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