So why does Silverlight need the CLR?

by Matt 23. April 2007 17:21

Ah. Good question. If Silverlight's "killer feature" is its Javascript accessable object model, why would Microsoft embed a .net CLR in the control?

Well, there's only so much you can do in Javascript and a browser. You don't get xml parsing support (otherwise JSON wouldn't exist). You can't call web services without a lot of pain, and lack of encryption means WS-* is just out of the question.

Imagine adding support for zip. Mix in a decent xml parser, and all of a sudden, you can now process XPS or Office 2007 files in the browser. That'd make Google Docs more interesting.

Javascript doesn't give you access to the local file system, and for very good security reasons. But given a sandbox with finer grained security permissions, and the file system might come into reach.

I keep thinking that this could be the next evolutionary step for the browser. I think we've all but hit the glass ceiling of what the browser will allow us to do. We need more client side capabilities (local storage, network connectivity, encryption, you name it). Does this come from objects exposed by the browser, Javascript libraries (which would have to be in source format) or pre-parsed/pre-compiled IL libraries?

Embedding the CLR, and especially elements of the Base Class Library could actually see Microsoft doing ActiveX properly; a secure, powerful binary extension mechanism.

And seeing how grandiose this is all getting, how about open-sourcing the whole thing and getting Firefox and Apple to buy into it?



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