At the September 2011 Build Conference, Microsoft said a lot about Windows 8 and the Future of JavaScript over Silverlight. No Plugins wanted!! JavaScript with html5 ftw!

What is the future of Silverlight with the ArcGIS Platform (ArcGIS for Server, ArcGIS Online, etc) in 2014 and beyond?

  • 5
    forums.arcgis.com/threads/… Nov 1, 2011 at 20:44
  • Microsoft sees HTML5 + JS serving a different purpose than Silverlight. I would not worry about it.
    – Jamie
    Nov 2, 2011 at 3:44
  • I can not see any big great news on ArcGis and silverlight. Beeing alive is maybe not enough?
    – Gero
    Nov 2, 2011 at 9:47

6 Answers 6


One useful place to look for clues is the GeoCortex tools. Latitude Geographics bases its entire (and quite successful) business model around building on ArcGIS with value-added tools. Whether or not they have any inside knowledge of ESRI's road-map I don't know, but they certainly must spend an awful lot of time thinking about it.

About this time last year Latitude seemed to be saying Flex was dying, and they were throwing their lot in with Silverlight - which resulted in greater advances in their Silverlight viewer. Since Flex Burrito and the ability to target iOS with Flex apps they don't seem so sure of Flex's imminent demise.

On their blog recently they made a fine point - obviously as HTML 5 becomes more prevalent it will eventually make many aspects of Flex / Silverlight redundant, but that's not happening right now. However, working and trusted GI systems are required right now, and we can't all sit around waiting for the next big thing or we'd never get any work done. Silverlight is a fine tool given current options.

I'm not a Latitude guy or even pro-Geocortex or Silverlight, but I think this is relevant.


  • GeoC have released a HTML5 viewer...
    – jakc
    Nov 11, 2011 at 13:05
  • @Simon do you have a link to any info on this? I can't see anything on their blog
    – tomfumb
    Nov 11, 2011 at 19:28
  • Was shown at their User Conference over here in Australia. The demo link is now a 404. Looked good, on modern browsers and iPhone.
    – jakc
    Nov 11, 2011 at 20:59
  • I am likely wrong with the word "released". "Working on" would have been a better statement.
    – jakc
    Nov 11, 2011 at 21:00
  • Somewhat related read on future of Flex dekho.com.au/the-future-of-dekho-flex IMO, SL & Flex are more stable & predictable environments to be developing enterprise applications against (for now...)
    – jakc
    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:18

As much as I love HTML5, the truth is that if your going to use it in a production environment where you need to support as many desktop browsers as possible, it is not a great solution (mobile is a different story). If you are going to support a limited set of browsers, then it becomes far more interesting.

Take a look at this compatibility chart of HTML5 support. Look at support for Canvas, WebGL, WebSockets, SVG, etc etc.

You will not have support across the board for these things until a few years from now - and that would still require you to allow whatever is considered an "A browser" then.

Truth is, that if you want to create an awesome experience that uses any of these things, the only viable option, right now, is a plugin... so that leaves Flash and Silverlight. Since ESRI is a Microsoft shop - they picked Silverlight.

Once ESRI buys into a technology as a platform, they support it full on. Need I remind that most of ArcObjects is COM based - and that is not changing anytime soon?

I would not worry that ESRI will drop support for Silverlight. Funny thing is that, in 7 years from now (an eternity in tech standards), probably MS is more likely to drop support for Silverlight than ESRI is.

Since most of us live in the present and need to deliver solutions yesterday, Silverlight is a good ESRI-sponsored option.

Update: And of course it has been 2 years since this answer and the browsers have been catching up. So if you asked me what I would use for now, the answer would be HTML5 for most things.

  • I really, REALLY don't need reminding that ArcObjects uses COM. I can't think of anything that has a greater impact on my mood at work than trying to dig out COM Exceptions.
    – tomfumb
    Nov 2, 2011 at 22:59
  • I remember a statistic related to this. ArcObjects is the biggest COM library ever. It has orders of magnitude more COM objects than Office. Not that I promote it - but it is an indicator that there will be support for .NET/Silverlight/COM in the future. Nov 2, 2011 at 23:03
  • Besides, at some point I gave up and just returned E_FAIL. j/k :D Nov 2, 2011 at 23:04
  • Great answer. I think, somehow though, WPF needs to be seen as a factor. WPF is certainly gaining traction on the desktop, replacing windows forms. Visual Studio is based on WPF. The WPF runtime for ArcGIS is a superset of the Silverlight SDK. WPF can also be deployed as a browser application (XBAP). The gap between SL and WPF seems to be shrinking. It is possible to compile both SL and WPF apps from the same codebase. Nov 11, 2011 at 15:04
  • Also note approach by ComponentArt where XAML that follows proper design guidelines can be automatically converted to HTML5. Nov 11, 2011 at 15:05

This doesn't add a huge amount to the discussion but worth adding now that it's available:

ArcGIS Server Blog : Some thoughts on the direction of the ArcGIS web mapping APIs


Esri might be, but Microsoft is not committed to Silverlight anymore. That's been on the news for the last year at least.

I have just read this article and I tought it might be useful to post it here.


To be honest I have always been suspicious of Silverlight. On this count I was probably right. So it's actually a problem more on the Microsoft side. It seems like of lately they can't come up and stick to a long-term developer plan anymore.


A review of the future of silverlight, flash and HTML 5 for web mapping can be found here...


It looks like HTML5 is on the rise with both Adobe and Microsoft backing it in different models.


This is an Old Question, but ESRI has finally cleared up the matters via a blog post in Feb 2014. You can read it here: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/arcgis/2014/02/21/esris-roadmap-for-web-developers/

Let me quote the main points from this post:

Esri will aggressively encourage the use of the ArcGIS API for JavaScript .... We do not plan to add these new capabilities to the Flex and Silverlight APIs, which will remain at version 3.x

Does this mean that the Flex and Silverlight APIs and Viewers will be deprecated? No. We will continue to support the Flex and Silverlight user communities. .... We anticipate one or two maintenance releases of the Flex and Silverlight APIs and Viewers in 2014. These releases will focus on bug fixes and critical enhancement requests. We will continue to gather feedback from the Flex and Silverlight user communities to determine if additional updates are necessary beyond 2014.

This means that if by now you haven't shifted to the JavaScript API, you should seriously start planning to do so.

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