Silverlight vs. Flash

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AceOfJacks splits his time between Cleveland, OH and Boston, MA. He enjoys BBC programming and irrelevant facts. Check out Hosted Exchange Hosting by Sherweb.

Web-based animation has been dominated by Adobe’s Flash software for as long as most internet users can remember. However, this has changed in recent years with the advent of Microsoft’s Silverlight, a competing animation suite. While Flash is still as prevalent as ever, its younger rival has been able to one-up it in some respects.
The Difference

For starters, Flash uses a frame-based animation model which requires the user to calculate the number of frames needed for a particular animation and then to duplicate the target object within each frame. This process also requires a blank audio track in order to establish the frame rate being used.

In comparison, Silverlight uses what’s called the WPF animation model. Rather than being frame-based, this animation model is based solely on time. All the user has to do is establish the start and end points of the animation, and then the software handles the rendering of the path it takes. This makes the process less time consuming and less daunting for new users.
Example:

In general, the file size for a Flash project will be smaller thanks to its compressed format. Texts and images are also embedded within the movie which saves even more space. Silverlight has a slightly larger component due to its use of XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and it does not compress. While this does not affect performance, using a compressed format makes it easier to transfer between multiple parties, like on Hosted Exchange Hosting by Sherweb .

The video formats that are supported by each application differ as well. Flash uses a modified version of the H.263 video codec which is not as fully supported as the original. Silverlight uses the standard VC-1 codec and supports Microsoft’s WMA and WMV formats. Since most users out there are running windows, a large majority of people have no problem working with this codec.

When it comes to availability, Flash beats out Silverlight. Flash is available on every Windows version, along with the latest Mac OS 10.6, and a slew of Linux distributions including Ubuntu. You can also find Flash on Android phones and tablets. Silverlight is supported on Windows, as well as Mac OS 10.6, but you won’t find it on any Linux machines. You will also only find it on Smartphones running Windows Mobile.

While Flash is still the standard for web-based animation, it has come up against some stiff competition in the form of Silverlight. But unless it keeps improving over Flash’s shortcomings, it will not achieve as great a standing as Adobe’s Flash.

Comments

  1. eli says

    Can’t forget the competition that seems to have with html5 and/or css3 as of the last few years.

  2. says

    Of all the things you chose to compare, you picked video codecs, file size and animation? Silverlight was built for creating line of business apps. While it can do plenty of other things, it wasn’t meant to be a Flash replacement. You’ll never see it used for things like banner ads or games because that’s not the point of the technology.

    Perhaps a better article would have been to compare the uses, benefits and drawbacks of each tool instead of a handful of the features.

  3. PixelTunnelVision says

    Eli, I don’t think anyone is overlooking that. The comparison of HTML5+CSS3+Javascript to Flash, if anything, has been shoved down our throats nonstop for the past year or two.

  4. Sean says

    “For starters, Flash uses a frame-based animation model which requires the user to calculate the number of frames needed for a particular animation and then to duplicate the target object within each frame. This process also requires a blank audio track in order to establish the frame rate being used.”

    What? Unless Flash has changed dramatically in the last two years or so, then this just isn’t true. The last time I looked, Flash had seconds on the timeline (based on your frame rate), you put the target object in the first and last frame only, and you set the frame rate in the document properties.

    Which Flash are you using?

  5. says

    Yes, i think Flash is available on every Windows version, ( along with the latest Mac OS 10.6 and Linus Ubuntu ).

  6. arturo says

    If this article is about Flash vs Silverlight, than there are numerous other things that need to be mentioned. One could write a lengthy and real comparison from different angles who excell in what and why, give demonstrations, real world examples, etc

    Or is this just an article quickly put together to place a couple of links to “Hosted Exchange Hosting by Sherweb”. Maybe I’ve been doing SEO for to long, but it sure smells that way

  7. says

    It’s really interesting the see the differences between the two. I’ve been working with Flash for so long, but now that Microsoft has started using Silverlight I’ve noticed they use it on their site. The XBOX site for example uses it and to view pages properly you need to install it just like if Flash had requested it. I don’t think it wil take off like Microsoft hopes but that’s also in part to the push for HTML5 and Mobile development has really put a dent in how much Flash is showing. OS X Lion even has issues running Flash CS4 now. It makes me wonder if that was intentional. Doesn’t necessarily make me think that silverlight will take its place though, especially when so many people are already used to developing in Flash, but like anything else developers will learn to adapt as necessary.

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