Like a lot of people I’m sure I got an email this week announcing that Microsoft’s answer to Flash - SilverLight (and design tool Expression Studio) - is now in open beta. I’m not a Flash user (in fact, apart from the ubiquitous web video players, I generally find Flash in websites mostly irritating than enabling), but I took a look out of interest. They’ve obviously released versions of the SilverLight player for Firefox & Safari becasue they know they can’t compete with Flash otherwise so I downloaded & installed the Firefox version. Quite small, which is good.
Impressions? From a user end, the examples look just like Flash, so get a ‘meh’ result there. I’m not sure I could be bothered to download & install a whole extra player to see the same kind of stuff. On the developer side I can’t really comment with any authority, but as I understand it the pros/cons generally stack up as one might expect: SilverLight has the cleaner interface (being new and with the benefit of ripping off the experience Flash has gained), but Flash has more features and wider support. More detailed analyses can be found here.
15 minutes of investigation and I really couldn’t care less though. Flash is Flash, no matter what you call it or who does it - terms like ‘intrusive’, ‘obscure interface’, ‘proprietary’ and ‘irritating’ are generally the first on my lips, and very occasionally, ‘quite useful’. But not that often.
Rich Internet Applications? More like Regularly Irritating Activities. Just look at what Google apps do with simple web standards to make the internet more approachable / interactive. I think that’s the way forward, not more proprietary plugins and whiz-bangery that makes the web feel like MTV. Maybe that’s just down to designers rather than tech - give them the ability to do ‘wet floor’ and cross-fade / swipe / scroll / bounce / pulse effects and they use it all at once until the observer can’t possibly take any more. But still, encouraging broadcasting-style glitz doesn’t promote good web design, IMO.