It's not often when a piece of technology impresses me enough that I do the "wow" thing when I'm using it. But the Silverlight streaming video implementation on NBCOlympics.com is truly awesome, even if I am forced into using Internet Explorer to watch it (EDIT: It seems Firefox 3 support was rolled out 2 weeks after I installed the plugin for IE7 on my XP box, so go ahead and try it).
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Sure, streaming video with integrated interactive content is nothing new, and fundamentally Silverlight doesn't do a ton of things different that similar technologies such as Flash 10 aren't already capable of. But given how stable the software is, even it its current beta state, and how well the Limelight Networks and Akamai caching is working (no, the Internet didn't melt over the weekend but pageviews haven't peaked to levels where it could happen yet) I have to give Microsoft and its technology partners that pulled this off for the Olympics a huge round of applause.
Yeah, it would have been nice to be able to watch the Olympics event playbacks and live feeds on Linux using Moonlight. But right now, Moonlight only supports Silverlight 1.0 apps, and NBCOlympics.com is implemented using 2.0. As Novell's chief Mono/Moonlight developer, Miguel de Icaza told me several weeks ago before the NBCOlympics content launch, "Work on this has started, but it will take a lot of work. And sadly, there are very few people willing to contribute to make this happen on time."
Now, one could get all huffy and puffy and blame Microsoft on this state of affairs, but in this case, I have to lay this problem strictly at the feet of the Open Source community. I know for a fact that De Icaza and Microsoft have pretty much a completely open relationship, they give him free flowing access to all the .NET API documentation and their developers, he spends a good amount of time on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, and Novell and Microsoft are committed to both making .NET run on Linux. However, Novell and Microsoft can only do so much to have the community contribute efforts to keep .NET development at pace on Linux with Windows. De Icaza is a brilliant programmer, but he needs help. One guy can only produce so much.
Silverlight is a cool technology, and Mono/Moonlight is Open Source. Yes, Flash 10 is better supported on Linux, and it comes from a company that has a vastly superior history in supporting multiple platforms and Open Source OSes, but I don't see Adobe opening the source code to Flash anytime soon -- if they did, maybe I would feel better about it as an industry dynamic content standard. In this case, despite the political correctness of the situation and Novell's choice to support Microsoft's technology and standards it has hampered the adoption of what I feel is superior technology.
Got some C# skills and want to help Miguel get Moonlight up to 2.0 specs? Fire up your IRC chat client, go to IRC.GNOME.ORG and channel #moonlight, and chat with his merry band of developers. Or shoot Miguel an email at miguel AT ximian DOT com.
Do you want a fully functional Silverlight 2.0 browser plugin for your Open Source OS? Talk Back and let me know.