I just spent Friday night and Saturday at the SilverlightDevCamp in Chicago. I'm glad I went as it gave me a chance to think for a couple days about Silverlight and other related topics. I knew a bit about Silverlight before going as I've been following it for a while now, but I admit I haven't written anything in it yet. Overall, the sessions were pretty good given the nature of this type of event is to have everything presented by the people attending it rather than bring someone in to present on a topic and have everyone else listen.
So what are my impressions of Silverlight now?
Well, it really reminds me of the early days of java applets in MCSA Mosaic. When everyone was rushing to make news tickers and couldn't think of much else to do with it. (And yes, I was there and actually wrote one of the first ticker applets used in production on the web.) Obviously it took some time for people to get past that stage and it took time for the technology to mature enough to allow more interesting things to be done.
I have no doubt that Silverlight will be a big success and I personally think it will be bigger than most people realize. The folks at Microsoft that are behind it's development undoubtedly realize it too but so far they aren't selling it as the "next significant technology move for web delivered applications" that it has the potential to become.
Why do I think that?
1. It leverages the .Net framework as the development platform, and let's face it, there are millions of .Net developers who will soon be able to create rich applications that delivered and live in the browser. (Of course I'm speaking of Silverlight 1.1, 1.0 is a technology teaser destined to be replaced by the real Silverlight.)
2. It's really going to be cross platform (Windows, Mac AND Linux). It is worth noting that this is the first time Microsoft has ever blessed and supported a development effort for Linux.
4. Like it or not... accept it or not... richer applications are going to be future. By rich applications I'm speaking more of the improved user experience they provide and not the pretty bells and whistles. It may not be as clearly delineated as the move from green screens to windows style interfaces, but there will be a clear difference html driven websites of today and the Silverlight driven websites of tomorrow.
When will this happen?
It's going to take time for this to happen and it could implode on itself along the way. First we'll see early adopters scrambling to make something of it, then slowly it will move into the main stream. It's hard to tell how fast this will happen, but my guess is that we're looking at one to two years before it really gets started and another year or two before users start asking for it. During this period, several hurdles must be overcome and competing technologies such as Adobe's Flex/Air could speed or slow the process.
Well, that's my take on it. I could be completely wrong about everything I've written here so far, but at least on this next note, I know I'm right... Silverlight is definitely something worth keeping an eye on and if you're a .Net developer it will be worth your time to learn more about it. I'll even go one step further and say if you are a .Net developer you should plan to learn to how to develop with it.
For now, keep moving forward with what you're doing, but prepare yourself for the changes ahead.