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Web-based animation has been dominated by Adobe’s Flash software for as long as most internet users can remember. However, this has changed in recent years with the advent of Microsoft’s Silverlight, a competing animation suite. While Flash is still as prevalent as ever, its younger rival has been able to one-up it in some respects.
For starters, Flash uses a frame-based animation model which requires the user to calculate the number of frames needed for a particular animation and then to duplicate the target object within each frame. This process also requires a blank audio track in order to establish the frame rate being used.
In comparison, Silverlight uses what’s called the WPF animation model. Rather than being frame-based, this animation model is based solely on time. All the user has to do is establish the start and end points of the animation, and then the software handles the rendering of the path it takes. This makes the process less time consuming and less daunting for new users.
In general, the file size for a Flash project will be smaller thanks to its compressed format. Texts and images are also embedded within the movie which saves even more space. Silverlight has a slightly larger component due to its use of XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and it does not compress. While this does not affect performance, using a compressed format makes it easier to transfer between multiple parties, like on Hosted Exchange Hosting by Sherweb .
The video formats that are supported by each application differ as well. Flash uses a modified version of the H.263 video codec which is not as fully supported as the original. Silverlight uses the standard VC-1 codec and supports Microsoft’s WMA and WMV formats. Since most users out there are running windows, a large majority of people have no problem working with this codec.
When it comes to availability, Flash beats out Silverlight. Flash is available on every Windows version, along with the latest Mac OS 10.6, and a slew of Linux distributions including Ubuntu. You can also find Flash on Android phones and tablets. Silverlight is supported on Windows, as well as Mac OS 10.6, but you won’t find it on any Linux machines. You will also only find it on Smartphones running Windows Mobile.
While Flash is still the standard for web-based animation, it has come up against some stiff competition in the form of Silverlight. But unless it keeps improving over Flash’s shortcomings, it will not achieve as great a standing as Adobe’s Flash.