Silverlight is a Rich Internet Application framework developed by Microsoft. Like other RIA frameworks such as Adobe Flash, it enables software developers to create applications that have a consistent appearance and functionality across different web browsers and operating systems. Silverlight provides users with a rich experience, with built-in support for vector graphics, animation, and audio and video playback.
Although Silverlight is still a relatively new technology, it has already been used for live streaming of high-profile events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. It is also being used by major sports organizations to broadcast live content.
To run Silverlight applications, users must install a browser plug-in, which provides a run-time environment that implements a subset of the .NET Framework. Currently, Silverlight is available on Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome for Microsoft Windows and on Safari and Firefox for Mac OS X.
To start building Silverlight applications, developers need to install Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1. This add-on is available for download from the official Microsoft Silverlight website: http://silverlight.net. It is compatible with both Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Web Developer 2008 Express.
The development experience is similar to ASP.NET – applications are implemented using markup and code-behind. One significant difference is the markup language. Instead of HTML, Silverlight uses a UI definition language known as XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language). Although there are graphical tools such as Expression Blend that make it easier for designers to produce XAML code, many developers prefer to write XAML by hand. Regardless of the design tool used, learning XAML is essential for developing Silverlight applications.