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InfoQ Homepage News Time is Running out on Silverlight

Time is Running out on Silverlight

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Normally when Microsoft decides an end-of-life date for a product, they really just mean “you shouldn’t be using this anymore, but we understand if you do”. This won’t be the case for Silverlight, which will no longer be downloadable after October 12, 2021.

Most Microsoft products go through a series of phases starting with the end of “mainstream support”. After this point, products enter into what’s known as “extended support”, where security patches are still widely available but any non-security updates usually require some sort of contract with Microsoft Unified Support.

The next phase is known as “beyond end of support”, where even security updates are only available via the Extended Security Update Program. Microsoft describes this “last resort option for customers who need to run certain legacy Microsoft products”.

But even after this point, you can usually get legacy software that you need. For a rather extreme example, those with a MSDN Subscription can download software from 1992 such as Visual Basic 2.0 and Windows 3.1. But what you won’t find on this list is Silverlight. The installer will no longer be available after next year.

This situation came about because Silverlight is not a stand-alone platform; it requires a browser to host it. And in a way, it was doomed from the start. Silverlight was first released in 2007, the very same year that Apple announced that it wouldn’t support browser plugins such as Adobe Flash for iPhone. This essentially killed the consumer market for Silverlight, though it did live on for a while thanks to streaming services such as Netflix.

Currently, the only browsers that continue to run Silverlight are Internet Explorer 10 and 11. “There is no longer support for Chrome, Firefox, or any browser using the Mac operating system.”

While Silverlight is essentially gone from the public web, where it did get some popularity was internal applications. For many companies this was seen as a way of quickly building line-of-business applications with better features and performance than HTML/JavaScript applications of the time. Such applications would normally be written in WinForms or WPF, but Silverlight made deployment and updating easier.

While these companies do have the prospect of an expensive rewrite, porting to WPF or UWP wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. And with WPF being offered in .NET Core, it does have the promise of a long lifespan.

Another area where Silverlight was used is in industrial and medical equipment. For example, Silverlight’s Deep Zoom technology was incorporated into the processing software for high-end microscopes to do cancer research. While modern browser technology removes the need for new software of this kind to be written in Silverlight, rewriting the existing software would take years and would be very expensive. And since the software is often tied to specific machines, the cost can’t be spread around like it would be for consumer software. So there is high probability that the software from a decade ago will need to be kept running for another decade or longer.

For information on when support ends on other Microsoft products, see the Search product lifecycle page. And if you are currently using Silverlight, check out Arthur Casals’ article on OpenSilver, a WebAssembly-based runtime for Silverlight applications.

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