The internet is getting ready to advance to a better platform beyond traditional HTML. It is likely going to take 3 to 5 years to complete, however the technology is now getting ready. Microsoft Silverlight joins Adobe’s Apollo among others to compete to become a new higher level platform beyond HTML.
In the past, innovation to directly help consumers most often happened in software products written on top of an a platform like Windows Win32. This platform was important to allow applications to take advantage of the full capabilities of the computer, such as sound, video, networking, printing, etc. The mac and Linux had equivalent but incompatible platforms.
With the internet, the web used HTML as a new platform to provided many benefits beyond the legacy Win32 platform. It is no coincidence that almost all consumer facing innovation has happened on the web HTML platform over the last 4 years. Examples include Google Maps, Gmail, Zillow, FareCast, MySpace, Facebook, Linked-In, Wikipedia, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
I’m a big believer that the playing field changes when an innovation provides an improvement 10-times better than the previous solution. The 10-times or 10x improvement with HTML was that users could use their data on any computer (any type windows/mac/linux and without installing software) since their data was always stored on the server. The second 10x improvement was that if the user had any problems, they could always close the web browser and all problems went away (crashes, security, etc.).
As a programmer, the inclination is to said that “win32 could be a little faster” but the truth is that users have a much stronger preference for access anywhere and with no fuss.
The internet is now getting ready for the next generation platform. The 10x improvement this time is in: a) better graphics, and b) faster user interface. A few innovations occurred over the last 4 years on legacy platforms (Win32 / DirectX / OpenGL) because they provided better graphics and faster user interfaces. Examples included SecondLife, World-of-Warcraft, and other games.
Microsoft just released Silverlight to join the existing next generation platforms, such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Apollo. I believe it will take 3 to 5 years until most web sites can benefit from the next generation with amazing graphics and speed. The primary challenging being that users still demand that their information is available everywhere, so these platforms will only succeed if and when they because available on as many platforms as possible. They also must provide a level of openness so that niche platforms can also implement support.
YouTube was the first mass market site to make this transition and depend upon flash. Flash gave them the advantage of starting movies before they finished downloading without requiring a movie player. YouTube greatly increased the percentage of computers with flash installed, which will make it easier for the next wave of sites.
Microsoft Silverlight: http://blogs.msdn.com/tims/archive/2007/04/15/introducing-microsoft-silverlight.aspx