Silverlight as Esau: selling its implementation for a pot of interface

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/24 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

Apologies for the biblical metaphor in the title...

Now I mentioned last week in Shine a Little [Silver]Light that

Sometime soon I'll talk about the next big question that is likely to be on many people's minds after they look at the slides.

and with a lead-in like that I figured I should probably start talking.... :-)

So here we go!

The hints were in earlier blogs like It's not how big you make it; it's how you make it big (aka Silver let your Light Shine Down), though perhaps not spelled out as explicitly.

Now I am not going to pretend that I do not find the whole "thin layer around the OS: model to be fascinating as a real case study of the differences between platforms, between expectations, and between (to use the Silverlight marketing word) experiences when it comes to globalization.

Not to mention issues like the ones raised in Mihai's comment about platform limitations on the Mac in this case, or the interesting coverage of Internationalization in Silverlight from Adrian Cadden's blog.

But once you move past those really interesting points (never fear, I'll head back into the fascination some other time!), a very interesting fact pops up.

That fact is that the majority of the work that was done in Silverlight was to avoid doing any actual work!

That's right -- the huge effort, the fascinating compromises, the intriguing differences are all symptoms of one of the largest attempts to be too lazy (or to be more accurate, too stingy about size!) to do much of anything of substance to provide a consistent and integrated feature set that would behave the same way across all platforms.

Silverlight sold its consistency birthright provided by .NET for a pot of wrapper.

You get to see where this leads to problems in some of the posts that are out there now like in the foiurth bullet point in My Wish List For Future Silverlight Release:

Support for Khmer language. This is a bit personal, since I'm a Cambodian and would like to see some progress for Cambodia IT, as it is stuck between the incompatibilities and supports. Unicode has finalized the Khmer characters standard years ago, and Vista has officially supported it. But .NET, WPF and Silverlight don't render Khmer text correctly, as these technologies don't go well with the Microsoft Uniscribe Engine and GDI+.

Indeed this would be nice -- but wouldn't providing that support vuiolate this new model of maximum effort in the interface, minimum effort in the implementation that leads to a smaller download, especially if the language is not supported in the platform underneath?

Sticking with Khmer for a moment (shades of Khmer, and I'll tell you about all the text stacks) and ignoring the implied breaking of the trust suggested in blogs like A whole new spin on the term 'Vertical markets' (aka in SiaO we trust?), it was even years ago when Carlton Pringle talked to me about .NET and Khmer:

Hi Michael

We spoke last yeah (via a forum) about Khmer language issues and you did mention you'd be interested in following how things are going in Cambodia with .Net technology and in particular language issues.

We've launched a .Net Community Site in Cambodia (with sponsorship from MS).  If you're interested please sign up - you could perhaps help to answer some questions about why WPF doesn't support Khmer :-(

Anyway, best of luck with everything,


I did sign up back then, though I did not have better answers as to why Khmer was not supported in Avalon (WPF) so I didn't really volunteer them. And though I do have explanations for why that support does not exist in Silverlight (WPF-e), I would hesitate to call those good explanations from the point of view of someone who wanted the support to be there.

Growing in a new direction that keeps one from being required to do a ton of cross-platform work to support language (choosing instead to wrap what the platform provides) is simultaneously very brave and very cowardly. and how you feel about it may well depend on which side of the divide your language (or your customer's language!) sits.


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referenced by

2008/12/03 Want to hear about a cool new typographic convention? Khmer, and I'll tell you about it...

2008/11/02 This is not yet my take on DirectWrite

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