Going with the flow
There's nothing to stop you taking this example, extending it and incorporating it into your own site, but that's only part of the Silverlight story – with the Silverlight Streaming Service (currently in Alpha), Microsoft is also offering to host your application. Currently, that's free of charge.
You can sign up for a Silverlight Streaming account here, and host up to 4Gb of content including video. Individual videos can be no larger than 22Mb – equating to about 10 minutes at 300Kbps.
The current Silverlight Streaming service gives you access to a global, high performance, high availability content distribution network - the same content delivery network that recently carried the video clips and demonstrations for the launch of Microsoft's Halo 3.
You start by creating a manifest.xml file that tells the streaming service which XAML file to load and run:
<SilverlightApp> <version>1.0</version> <source>Scene.xaml</source> </SilverlightApp>
On Windows, multiple select the files, right click and select Send To Compressed (zipped) folder - you can use any of the popular ZIP compression programmers, but you need to make sure that the manifest file appears in the top level root of the zip file - zipping the parent directory will not work.
To create more serious XAML applications you really need a good XML editor. The Microsoft Silverlight 1.0 SDK includes an add-in for Visual Studio 2005 that provides context-sensitive XAML editing and IntelliSense. The forthcoming Visual Studio 2008 will include a XAML based Graphical User Interface builder.
Expression Encoder is available as a free trial download and allows you to edit and manipulate video and audio clips. Available here, Expression Encoder – part of the Expression suite - will generate XAML video player applications in a variety of styles for use with Silverlight Streaming with an appropriate manifest.xml file.
So to wrap up, Silverlight is a browser-based plug-in that extends programming in DOM using XAML to program video and graphics. Using XAML, you can construct a basic framework that's relatively simple to customize and extend while the Silverlight Streaming Service lets you harness Microsoft's content distribution network to deliver media on a global scale. These are early days for Silverlight, but the platform shows great promise. ®
Rob Blackwell is director of R&D for Active Web Solutions who worked with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) to build its award winning Sea Safety tracking system. You can keep up with Rob here.
@Anonymous -- re: firefox on various open OSs. There is a mono project to support Silverlight (called Moonlight!) applications which I believe includes a plugin that supports any Moz based browser ... http://www.mono-project.com/Moonlight
I actually think that the Silverlight project holds some promise as it should make creating media rich content a little more accessible for the design challenged like myself. However, as many people have already mentioned there are still far too many sites filled with completely pointless chaff! What did Jakob Nielson say? "Flash, it's 99% bad!"
My hope for Silverlight is much the same as any other multimedia-centric technology, that its used to add value rather than just for the sake of it.
I used to have an insane scheme to kill MySpace.....
...but Microsoft did it even better.
Incidentally, Firefox support? Firefox on Darwin running on a 64-bit sparc?
@ryan - yes, it seems very much like SVG, from the excellent example in Rob's excellent article. I fear though that if the XAML used becomes more verbose (ie, transparent), Silverlight would convince a lot of SVG fanbois (myself included) to switch over.
SVG is already media-crippled and (not without a lot of overhead) can only simulate 3D environments. Regrettably Mozilla and Safari have forked their implementations and the technology has idled for years. Successfully inserting video via XML?! Touche MS, touche...
I'm not fooled. I'm not trading open standards for convenient proprietary frameworks. I'm not interested in any plug-in engine. Yes, Adobe flash ain't free, but it's self-contained, it's own beast, and doesn't have a long string tied to MS hq. Besides, I'd rather do rich applications via one flash file, instead of four extra/exposed files and syntaxes.