The battle behind the screens – Flash vs. Silverlight

It’s definitely a war–it’s just that it’s a Cold War.

Since Microsoft released Silverlight, (and by the way, watch what happens when you surf over there) their answer to Adobe Flash, in 2007, there’s been a (sort of) silent war going on behind the two software giants about who gets to play your movies.

When you go to a site like Youtube or Hulu to watch videos (and who among us does not, these days?), isn’t it awesome how fast it is? How clear? How the videos you watch don’t take up space on your hard disk or really even slow down what you’re doing in the background? That’s because when you go to those sites (and soon others like Vimeo and possibly Dailymotion), your browser loads a plugin to let you read the Flash Video that someone has posted and that the website has slightly reconfigured–and plays it right from the source, like you’re looking through your computer to where the video really is, somewhere else. This means that anyone, anywhere can see it, which is good news for video producers and marketers alike. Just as Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux can all (usually) read the same types of files, now we can all see almost any type of video–the trouble is that not everyone feels like they’re making enough money this way.

Any guesses who? (*coughSilverlightcough*)

Well, you’re mostly right, but it isn’t JUST Microsoft. There are plenty of people out to get Flash, now that it’s the standard for video playback on the web: Sun Microsystems (who makes Java), plenty of open-source proponents, and Apple have either resisted or worked around integrating Flash into their video products (iPhone, anyone?) but more than ever, Adobe is realizing that if they want their product to stay at the top, they’re going to have to get into some heretofore unexplored venues. To that end, the rumors are flying about new tools for developing iPhone apps using Flash, putative Flash support on the theoretical Apple Tablet (if it exists, right?), and more.

Microsoft is responding to this by leveraging their power toward pushing Flash out of certain areas; ever notice that the streaming function of Netflix is run on Silverlight instead of Flash?

So here’s the question: both Flash and Silverlight are proprietary software, and both are the big boys when it comes to video playback on the web–now whom would we prefer as the keeper of our vids? Because someones’s going to win this battle–and either way, it’s going to mean a lot about how we get (and what we can do with) our video.