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Why Your Silverlight and VB6 Applications Are Ticking Time Bombs

Your new Silverlight applications are as liable to "blow up" as your old legacy VB6 applications, argues this founder of a .NET tools company.


Aging VB6 applications are a time bomb. Not only are the hardware, operating systems and runtime environments that they run on all candidates for replacement, but Microsoft will almost certainly drop support for VB6 after Windows 7. When the underlying infrastructure gets replaced, it could mean your application suddenly stops working -- i.e. blows up -- and you won't be able to call on Microsoft for help.

We like to dismiss the proverbial "legacy application" -- like that old VB6 app -- as something from the dinosaur age. It's easy to write off pre-Y2K (year 2000) programs, MS DOS, COBOL and mainframe systems with a cynical smirk while ignoring the millions of lines of code making up today's client/server systems, but these often critical applications really are time bombs. Paradoxically, even the applications written in more recent technologies such as Silverlight and Web Forms are also in danger of blowing up.

Editor's Note: The author, Navot Peled, is co-founder and president of Gizmox, makers of the migration tool for legacy client/server applications. We have selected this article for publication because we believe it to have objective technical merit.

The HTML5/JavaScript Revolution Leaving Silverlight as a New Time Bomb?

Microsoft's technology roadmap has taken some sharp turns in direction. ASP.NET/Web Forms was scrapped in favor of Silverlight and now, after converting developers and enterprises, it's shifted its focus yet again. That isn't a bad thing in itself; the problem for developers is the lack of support for backward compatibility or the lack of a migration offering. For example, Microsoft still hasn't come up with a true migration tool for VB6, either to .NET or a Web architecture.

Even with such roadmap changes taken into account, it's difficult to envision the next Windows platform not supporting .NET, even though Microsoft has not yet issued a definitive statement to that effect. The bigger concern is which plumbing infrastructure .NET developers are supposed to use for Web applications. The horse that Microsoft has been backing since the summer of 2007 -- the ASP.NET/Silverlight cocktail -- seems to have lost its momentum. In a Win8 shell preview at the D9 Conference earlier this year, HTML5 and JavaScript were ominously presented as Microsoft's future Web strategy, with Silverlight not getting a mention.

It would be reasonable to assume that this is not unconnected to the tremendous following already attained by HTML5 and its semi-official engagement with JavaScript. If their popularity continues to spread like the Facebook revolution, it's likely to overthrow all proprietary plug-ins, including the ubiquitous Adobe Flash/Flex, which has led the rich browser user experience since it was under the Macromedia label.

Like Flash/Flex, Silverlight is locked out of Apple's iOS, whose use has spread dramatically in the iPad/iPhone age. Silverlight isn't supported by Android either. The ace in HTML5's deck is cross-platform compatibility (browser and OS), and that raises a serious question about Silverlight's chances of survival. The relative lack of information from Microsoft doesn't alleviate these concerns either.

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