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What is Silverlight, and do I need it?


I just did a check for fixes & updates using Windows Updates.
The result of the check was a software update for which I do not know
if I should download and install it or not. As an “end user” home
computer, I don’t know if I need “Silverlight v1.0”. I was wondering if
you could shed some light on this Silverlight and, generally speaking,
whether or not a home user would need or use Silverlight.

Do you need it? Probably not yet. But I’m guessing that someday you
will want it.

And even if you don’t, I’m guessing not having it will, eventually,
be annoying enough that you’ll give in and install it anyway.

This is a frustratingly classic case of “Resistance is Futile”.

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Here’s the Microsoft line on Silverlight:

Microsoft Silverlight delivers a new generation of high-quality
audio and video, engaging media experiences, and interactive
applications for the Web.

In a way, Silverlight is much like Adobe’s Flash in that it enables
a bunch of functionality that “plain old HTML” simply doesn’t support such as
animation, video, multimedia and more. In fact, Silverlight
is considered in many ways a Flash competitor.

So, do you need it?

Probably not yet. The number of web sites that are using it is
actually small. It’s unlikely that you’ll actually see any difference
as you browse the web without Silverlight for some time, with a few

“.. you can keep avoiding it, if you like.
Chances are that for now you won’t really notice any issues …”

Microsoft is of course pushing everyone to install Silverlight
support on their machines so that website authors will be encouraged to
use the new technology. You’re seeing it in Windows Update. In fact, if
you simply visit the Microsoft home page, you’ll likely be prompted
right there to install it as well, since Microsoft is naturally also
using the technology itself. At this point, it’s not a requirement, but
it wouldn’t surprise me if someday certain key features required

My guess is that it’s simply going to become annoying.

You may run into a site where you actually want to install
it to get the site’s functionality, and that’s fine. It’s actually a
fairly small download and install.

What I expect, though, is to be nagged into submission by Windows
Update, and by visiting sites that don’t require it, but promise some
kind “enhanced experience” if you have do it.


Right now there are bumps in the road. I’m finding that if you’re
running Internet Explorer all seems to be well. Silverlight installs
and runs just fine. However, if you are visiting with FireFox 3,
the site doesn’t believe that Silverlight is installed and keeps
offering it, even though Silverlight is most definitely installed.

That’s a little frustrating, but sadly not terribly surprising.

So my bottom line: you can keep avoiding it, if you like. Chances
are that for now you won’t really notice any issues other than the
occasional reminder that you haven’t installed it.

Me? I gave in and installed it, just to remove one more

It does at times seem that resistance is futile.

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35 comments on “What is Silverlight, and do I need it?”

  1. So we can define “Silverlight” as a programming model for developing and distributing rich Internet applications (RIA) that use graphics, animations or video within the .NET framework.

    I think this technology will used much more in the future , but until this time we aren’t obliged to use the silverlight tool.

    important article leo , thanks …

  2. Typical Microsoft, wanting to control everything, can’t possibly use something that was created by someone else (ODF/OOXML, Flash/Silverlight). This company disgusts me.

  3. So Leo, you gave in and installed Silverlight. But you’ve said previously that you use Firefox. A pointless installation??
    By the way, there are other M’soft updates, even so-called ‘critical’ updates, that are completely unnecessary. But it’s impossible to know this until they’ve been installed – and cannot be uninstalled.

  4. I tend to agree with Des on this Leo….My son swears by Microsoft (I don’t) and never will I hate authority
    I too use Firefox whenever I can.
    What I did find disconcerting was the statement by Des that a lot of updates are unnecessary.
    Worse still they cannot be uninstalled
    Mick Rogers

  5. You don’t HAVE to accept the updates. Under Control Panel, go to Security Center, then Windows Updates. One of your choices is “Notify me but don’t automatically download and install them.” When a window pops up in your system tray saying there are updates available you can click on that box and review what updates are there. Deselect the ones you don’t want. This morning it wanted to download the Windows XP SP3 to the tune of 316MB. I deselected because I’ve already downloaded and installed this myself. I also don’t let it download anything to do with Outlook or Outlook Express because I don’t have either program on my computer. Hope this helps

  6. thank you so much for the article.the name sounded inspirational and i wanted to download and install without knowing what it was.from your article i definitely want to wait and watch.i dont know why everybody is blaiming microsoft for one thing or the other .please remember that the company began from strach .

  7. Actually the vast majority of Linux distributions can run from a cd. It’s called Live-CD.
    BTW i installed Silverlight on my test pc and it broke my Opera browser when i tried to visit the Microsoft Downloads site. It was a pain to remove so i say: Stay away from it, it’s not worth it now.

  8. Adobe’s Flash is annoying with things moving all around the place, many in ads. I use FlashSwitch from to stop Flash junk. It allows turning on Flash by clicking on the icon in the tool tray when you need to use Flash for something.
    Is there a similar program to turn off Silverlight? If not, I hope someone creates one fast.

  9. Unless my computer will stop working if I do not install Silverlight, then MS can go to the “hot spot”. As far as I am concerned, most of their “updates” are just another form of “phone home” spyware. I do NOT trust MS as far as I “can throw them” because they do NOT trust loyal PAYING customers and insist on you “passing” a security check every time you want to update. This and other actions by MS are just going to drive people to other OS’s.

  10. Reading the agreement silverlight states it tracks and reports websites you visit. does it report every site or just the silverlight encoded sites?

  11. M.S. Silverlight it is not just annoying, it breaks some basic windows functions and they never fixed it properly.
    I had to remove it from all my systems.

  12. this article wa very informative and helped me a lot in deciding what to do with it, and I liked the reply by T.july 16, 2008 re update security centre. Thanks for that. Like everything else microsoft is a good product but it has become so big wit so many changing products its not able to be managed properly anymore and what are minor details to them but big to the end user gets lots in the system, thus inexperienced people like myself are getting updates and don’t know what to do with them or how to fix them without research. This forum site by microsft is one of the best and thanks for that too. Like me with ‘always learning’ microsoft is no doubt ‘always trying to improve’ but is getting lost in its massiveness as well. Microsoft is not alone in that regard but they seem to be doing a good job in providing free support. thanks

  13. I have tried to update this program and it keeps telling me there is an error and it can not install. I’ve done everything it’s asked, and still get the error. I hope I won’t need the program soon because trying to load/unload/load is driving me nuts.

  14. I Have tried to update this silverlight and it says it cannot be done. But it wont let me uninstall it. Help

  15. on my XP pc silver light makes it run too slow or sometimes not at all so i removed it and it works fine.My new pc with windows 7 it installed itself ,however i stoped the updates for it but don’t know if i should keep them in the hidden updates. I have read your artical ,but still am ambivelent about it.

  16. I tried to install it so I could watch Netflix, but it won’t let me…PLEASE HELP!!!

    I’d need a lot more information than just “it won’t let me”. System config? OS versions? Up to date? Anti-malware? And most important: what happens when you try – including the specific and full text of any error messages?


  17. I have tried to download silver light, however it wont download, i thought perhapse it was my activX that was stopping the download. I’m still haveing no luck,Can you help?

  18. I got into a crazy loop with Netflix requiring Silverlight in order to stream a movie to my computer. I saw advice to do this and it fixed it:
    in I.E., Tools, Internet Options. Click on RESET. You lose cookies and a bunch of stuff but you do not lose your favorites. That was fine with me. Click OK. My Netflix movies now play to my computer. Good luck.

  19. Silverlight, Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, Windows, iTunes? The
    problem with all of this is, of course, that very little of it actually
    works. (Anything made by Adobe wants to own your entire computer and
    it’s been that way since their first font manipulation app. for the Mac
    SE) None of this lives up to its promise and falls short of the
    expectations we have of it/them. Why are we spending half of our lives
    updating/upgrading faulty operating systems and feeding any number of
    mega corportaions with money just so that we can fill up more and more
    fields in a computer program with data? By necessity, I am an
    intensive computer user, but none of the operating systems and programs
    work the way they’re supposed to and I’m married to my IT gurus at work
    – not that I can’t fix the problems, but they have all of the passwords
    – and at home I’m hardly ever on the internet for enjoyment, but to
    update/upgrade something that doesn’t work, again. Now the computer
    and the operating system has to touch the “Mother Ship” or it will
    quuit working. SO I don’t own it even though I’ve paid for it. What
    all of this is causing is a gradual hatred for technology. I know that
    when I retire, all the computers and cell phones are goung to be thrown
    out (my MP3 players, iPod etc. are history already as is my satellite
    dish) I may keep my TV, but 3D is out of the question and with DVD’s
    I’m stopping short of bluRay. I’m tired of it all. (BTW, whenever I’m
    required to sign up or give information that I consider intrusive or
    irrelevent to what I’m trying to do, I provide misinformation, on
    purpose. However, the e-mail address above is correct, I just go there
    to empty the Inbox)

  20. evry time I try to send photos the grinning girl tells me to sign up for silverlight when I do it tells me I have silverlight I go back and she is in the way again. A carch 22 leaving me unable to send pictures

  21. I am still in the process of believing that we are the mugs ie not only do we not understand what we really need, we do not even understand it when we have bought it. We have become techie sheep!! I may have silverlight because I can see the updates for it, but have little idea whether it is being used by my PC. Ah well I will carry on regardless. Thanks for the article though I will leave well alone.

  22. When I chanced on SL a few years ago, i.e. a website asking for it to be installed, I went to Microsoft’s website to learn more about it.
    Spent a few hours reading that stuff, and in the end decided that I understood less then nothing about it.
    As I remember it was written with Web designers and other bytesbiters in the IT business in mind.
    Probably my fault but at a certain moment it crossed my mind:”what the heck do they try to prove here?”
    I’m a bit suspicious and if I don’t understand what they want to install, and it’s not clear to my what it actually does (without my permission probably), I stay away.
    Until this very day I don’t have the feeling I’m missing that “wonderful experience”.
    Websites that urge me to install SL are a simple click away from sites that don’t.
    Seeing the comments from users that ran into problems upon install, whether a program glitch or a conflict due to other software installed, I feel that until know it’s been good decision not to.
    -But never say never-
    One little annoyance: it keeps on popping up, whether I indicate that I don’t want to see this update again, or not.

  23. So, If I have Chrome, where, Adobe FP, and Java, are all-inclusive, will adding Silverlight cause issues? I have all three, and I’ve had nothing but problems with my Java not loading, the littla Java dot circles, round and round, (Facebook Games of course or I should say ROCK YOU inc. Games are the biggest issue, won’t load at all,) and I’m thinking there may be a conflict of interest here…Is the `Headache to come’ already here? Thanks for your help and wealth of info, you write in a manner that even the “lay-personna’s,” can absorb! Shea R.

  24. There’s another reason you might not want to install Silverlight (and you can hide it Windows Update). Microsoft gets credit for it’s OS and Browser but….not the maintenance tools and security that should have been in place 20 years ago that in the Mom and Pop world resulted in a lot of expense and “throwing it out” because it’s old and slow. So what’s my point besides MS marketing tactics, actually points….A) By not buying in you are actually promoting the “free” world as opposed to MS……in this case HTML5 and beyond. B) It’s doubtful that Silverlight will be widely adopted for two reasons….the existing install base and developers, a reflection of the “free” world. But it’s your choice…..and at least now we have them.

  25. My husband works for a company that puts time sheets, check stubs and other paperwork online through a site called It is a place where employers can set up their own site for employees to access information. The first thing you need is Silverlight. I already had it but it wouldn’t connect up. I uninstalled it and tried again, after multiple install/uninstalls I finally I got it to access the website using Firefox, I could not get it to work on IE. I continually got errors for Silverlight, before I got it to work. I actually don’t know what I did that finally made it work, I had been trying for 3 or more hours to get it to work. I don’t know if it was Silverlight or the website for my husband’s work.

    I am guessing it is going to be mandatory sometime soon.

  26. Iam grateful for a site that answers my questions straight forward, and your site also gives me background and alternatives. Thank you, Leo


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