back to article British TV firm dumps Silverlight

In a blow to Microsoft, ITV has switched the technology powering its web streaming service from Silverlight to Adobe's more widely installed Flash. It's understood the move, quietly carried out on Friday, was motivated by a simple need for the commercial broadcaster to reach the greatest possible number of web viewers. The …


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  1. Jimmy Floyd

    Hell of a mountain to climb

    Microsoft know it isn't popular enough to foist completely on the population. Look at The front page is in Flash but you only have to use Silverlight if *you* want something (like downloading to the Xbox via the website).

  2. ThomH Silver badge

    Great, now somebody tell 4OD

    And I can uninstall Silverlight again. I think the problem is that while a whole bunch of people don't want Adobe to have this amount of control over rich web content — especially since they seem to be so poor at software engineering — the only thing that could usurp them is open standards adopted by Microsoft. And Microsoft would rather just steal the market and control it themselves. My only hope is that Silverlight completely fails so Microsoft adopt an "if we can't control it, no-one can" attitude and discuss then implement at least an attempt at rich media for HTML 5. I'm sure they'll diverge and produce a bunch of headaches, but it'll still be better than watching Flash crash so routinely and consume 95% CPU to play video streams that QuickTime seems able to handle in more like 15%.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Silverlight IS getting installed

    ... by those who need to use Microsoft web sites for support / information. So I'm sure Microsoft will come up with some interesting statistics about what percentage of PCs have Silverlight...

  4. Jess

    They listened to me when I complained :)

    The performance of ITV player was awful. Coupled with the fact that it wouldn't work at all on most of my computers, meant I never used it.

    Hopefully the new version will work adequately.

    So I wonder if channel 4 will follow suit. (I have never had a computer that was compatible with their service.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up




  6. Frank Bough

    I went to once,

    saw the Silverlight requirement and promptly buggered off elsewhere. I can't even remember what it was I'd wanted to see but I'm not what you'd call a big ITV viewer...

  7. Anonymous Coward

    A good product

    I have to use silverlight for Netflix's instant streaming service and it works great for me on windows and mac. I particularly like the fact it can change, on-demand, the bitrate of the video being streamed.

  8. northern monkey
    Thumb Up


    Now I can watch the x-factor I missed whenever I want (the repeat rate is dire at the moment, though so is the new format).

  9. Rob Farnell
    Gates Horns

    Is this a surprise?

    In a I am not sure anyone has explained to Microsoft that ubiquitous does not mean people using the many different varieties of Windows products and the way to encourage sign up to silverlight is by cross-operating system support.

    In fairness Linux, Apple and PS3 (and to some extent Wii) users dwarf Microsoft's footprint, but they make it an easy decision for people not to select it if the operating system is likely to be inconsistent aka Joe Public.

    I actually like silverlight and I think it has matured into something cool, but Microsoft have to let it go into the wild to gain anything like the popularity of flash.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    open standards and Microsoft

    synopsis of post by ThomH:

    01. Adobe seek to achieve control over rich web content

    02. Microsoft seeks to adopt 'open standards' (ROTFLMHO)

    03. Flash routinely crashes and consume 95% CPU.


    01. That isn't even remotely possible while MS own the desktop. As their recent foray into silverlight demonstrates. Given the past business of both companies who do you thing seeks to control the web. You may have inadvertently given away MSs game plan here :0

    02. Are you fricking kidding me here ? You still have to pay the protocols royalties to use your 'opem standards' application on their desktop.

    03. I've not noticed. It would beg the question as to how Silverlight delivers better performance on similar platforms. It wouldn't be the application developers getting better access to the operating system developers ?

  11. dave 81
    Jobs Horns

    Still not installed it.

    If a site uses silverlight, I assume it does not want me to visit it.

    I will stick with the devil I know thank you very much.

  12. Richard Porter
    Gates Horns

    Am I bovvered?

    In a word, no. Is there anything on itv worth watching?

  13. Dave 142


    4OD does use flash

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good !

    The quality was awful when compared to the iPlayer, nice to see yet another MS failure

  15. Matthew Smith

    I can get rid of it now

    The only reason I had Silverlight installed was so the gf could watch Gossip Girl on ITV2. That'll save me a bit of hard disk space now.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Flash Bing wallop

    I thought it funny that when Bing launched, Microsoft's own demo video was in Flash.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eating dogfood

    There is a part of me that can only smile at the dominant OS eating some of it's own dogfood!

    With 90-blah-blah-percent something desktop dominance, I think it's a good thing that they don't get everything their own way - the tide is turning.

    Having said that, Adobe can hardly be considered open to competition, having swallowed up Macromedia, now being the dominant multimedia content creation provider.

    Silverlight is to Flash as Zune is to iPod - if you arrive too late for the bandwagon, you get the cheap seats.

  18. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Will Microsoft get the message?

    In a word No

    What they will do is give ITV oodles of dosh to make their site work with Silverlight and silverlight only. IMHO, this is the only way itv can get the ££££ they need to keep going.

    Yesterday, it was product placement. Today a baited switch away from one of Microsoft's flagship technologies. Who knows what 'tricks' they have for tomorrow.

    Personally, there is nowt on itv-1 that in the slightest bit interests me apart from the odd documentary. One series on itv-3 is about it but as it is broadcast well into the small hours, I'm left to record it on my pvr so I skip the ads.

  19. Ben Ryves


    You had problems with the performance of the Silverlight player... and Flash is any better? Silverlight at least supports hardware video acceleration, Flash doesn't and so any HD Flash "video" turns into a slideshow when viewed fullscreen for me. I don't have any such problems with Silverlight, nor even watching Blu-ray content.

    In any case, the 4OD service is also Flash-based.

  20. bex

    shame but

    I have been on Silverlight enabled websites with firefox and the plugin installed and they still say you must install a plug in to view this content even though its installed.

    Shame because flash on the Mac is still pants

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ITV Player

    has always been awful anyway, will this make it any better? As long I can stream it without downloading more junk to my PC I'm not bothered whether it's flash or silverlight tbh

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I haven't installed Silverlight and have not noticed any affect on my browsing. The only sites that I visit which insist that I install Silverlight are MS ones, and even then I decline or go elsewhere.

    Thumbs up to ITV.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Superb, couldn't have put better me self !

    Keep up the good work.

  24. Simon Orr

    My view on silverlight

    I have to say that I'm on the fence with regards to MS - I use a lot of MS stuff all day (as a .Net developer) and although the older kit was awful, the newer tools are far better - Enough so that I don't begrudge using them.

    I think Silverlight as compared to Flash is actually a superior product (Cue flames) but with the low user base, the inherent distrust of MS and the HUGE head start adobe has, it's going to take a while before silverlight gains a competitive market share.

    I do believe it's going to happen and I think anyone who develops in .Net will start to appreciate silverlight more and more - I suspect that in 5 years, silverlight and flash will be installed side-by-side on most machines

    FWIW, The ITV site was horrible anyway - excusing the obligatory forced adverts, I'm not sure if the problem was Silverlight or the poor implementation - I suspect the latter.

    Anyway, I think it's going to be interesting going forwards - hopefully MS/Silverlight will give adobe a kick. Now if only they could de-bloat Acrobat Reader...

  25. Jad

    Joe 90

    Woo Hoo! I can Watch Joe 90 in Solaris :)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    rather odd

    its rather odd when you consider that silverlight3 actually plays HighProfile AVC SD and HD Encodes ratehr well see:

    it seems the Uk Tv procuders didnt learn anything from the crap US Mpeg2 Only streaming era.....

    AVC.TS is the worlds platform of choice now, but then it is ITV we are alking about here, they would know a good universal streaming decoding codec if you slaps them with it,CoreAVC is the ony real choice.

  27. Cameron Colley


    While there isn't that much ITV content I'd like to watch, there is some. Plus, hopefully it will make C4 reconsider their MS only (not tried Mac) stance also -- having an XP virtual machine to watch the odd program is a pain in the arse.

    Adobe (TM)(C)(*) -- proving you're better with the devil you know...

  28. Richard 22
    Thumb Up


    That means it'll work on the linux laptop (eeepc 901) I generally use for watching TV in the kitchen. If only there were any programs on ITV I watched...

    To those mentioning 4OD - I thought that moved to flash ages ago? I watched an episode of Brasseye only last week on my linux machine - damn sure that wasn't using silverlight....

  29. David Webb
    Gates Halo

    The issue

    The biggest issue that Silverlight has is that Flash has been around for years so pretty much 99% of browsers have it installed. Switching that content over to Silverlight means you have a lower demographic who are able to view the content without having to download the plugin to watch, so its easier to stick with Flash.

    It's nothing to do with which is the better provider of content, they both do the same thing and both are capable of displaying HD quality content, it all boils down to the fact that if you want 99% of your website visitors to be able to watch your videos, you need to use something they already have installed.

    Maybe over time as Silverlight starts to gain momentum (if it indeed does) it will be able to start to challenge Flash, but the big sites like YouTube, Veoh etc.. all use Flash and I can't imagine Google getting into bed with MS and switching YT over to SL.

  30. Rob Beard
    Thumb Up

    Re: Hell of a mountain to climb

    Err... actually you don't need Silverlight to set stuff downloading. I can schedule stuff to download on my XBOX 360 from the site on my laptop which is running Ubuntu 9.04 with Firefox 3 and it works fine. No Silverlight to be seen.

    I do agree about the front page though, Flash intro rather than Silverlight.

    I'll finally be able to hopefully catch up on more ITV than the limited amount of programmes that Virgin catchup have on their ITV Player service, saying that though I tend to just watch Corrie mainly.


  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Web is cross-platform, Silverlight isn't.

    I think Microsoft underestimates the importance of the web being cross-platform, and that therefore browser plugins have to be cross-platform too to become ubiquitous. I've tried Mono/Moonlight, it doesn't work (it's at best 2 versions behind so it'll run a few demos and that's about it) and I'm pretty sure Microsoft will keep Silverlight a moving target to make sure it *doesn't* work.

    Silverlight? It supports XP and up (on 2000, it will apparently run ONLY in IE6). And Intel Mac.

    Flash? Flash 9 supports all the way down to Win98; Flash 10 supports down to Win2K on any browser (well, that supports Netscape plugins or ActiveX plugins). It also supports Mac (Intel *and* PowerPC), Linux, and Solaris. It supports several smartphones and a few "dumb phones". They have an ARM port so the new ARM netbooks should have flash support when they come out. The BSDs use Linux emulation to also support Flash. There's also gnash which is fully portable (Flash's specs are open so this is a full flash clone) but similar to moonlight, last I tried gnash it wasn't quite working right..

    The "everyone but Windows" market is small (but growing..), but web browsers are cross-platform... when one plugin is truly cross-platform, has a 99% install base, and is making an effort to become *more* cross platform, and the other plugin isn't, it makes the choice clear to me (and apparently to ITV too.)

    I think it was a miscalculation.. I've read Microsoft wanted to use Silverlight as a wedge of sorts, make it popular among web designers so non-Windows users would miss out on all these Silverlight-requiring pages and go get Windows to view them. Instead, those who used Silverlight on their websites saw their viewership drop off.

  32. Neil Greatorex

    Hmmm, I recall I went there once (can't for the life of me remember why, as I don't watch it) saw their "catch-up" player, had a look, saw that it was Silverlight & buggered off sharpish.

    Just had another look as a result of this article. OK, it now works, however iPlayer this is not!

    Also it would seem there are, apparently, only 3 programmes: X fucktor, Emmeryawn & Coronation sleep.

    Flash/Silverlight/anything doesn't matter, if the content is a shite as the above, why bother.


  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do we need Silverlight if Flash is already so ubiquitous

    I don't know anyone who's been bothered enough by what ITV offer to go an install Silverlight. It's a resource hog and doesn't add any other obvious benefit other than getting the ITV Player working.

    But given how many ITV channels there are on Freeview, constantly repeating old and new shows over and over again, if you miss anything you can just wait a day or two and watch it oe of the repeats. So what's the compelling reason to jump though hoops to get the ITV player working?

    The BBC iPlayer offers much better content, is easier to use, "just works", whatever browser or operating system combination you're using and because the BBC repeat programmes much less (at least on the main channels and radio stations) there's a reason to go there.

    The only chance Silverlight has is if they bundle it with Windows and then wait 10 years for it to filter though onto all the PCs out there. Then there's a chance of it "just working" out of the box.

    However, in another 10 years, Windows may not be as ubiquitous as it is now, so maybe Silverlight will simply never rival Flash, no matter what features they come up with?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Re: AC

    "I've not noticed. It would beg the question as to how Silverlight delivers better performance on similar platforms. It wouldn't be the application developers getting better access to the operating system developers?"

    Not to defend the beast too much, but I am working in both Flex and Silverlight now, and my personal side-by-side testing shows Silverlight as about 20X faster. Adobe is great at graphics, but sucks ass at compilers, languages, IDEs, virtual machines, and webservices.

    On the other hand, Microsoft sucks ass at graphics. Hopefully one day the TileBrush in Silverlight will actually tile. But for their last 3 versions of the product, their answer has been "its not a bug, its a feature". Other things about it seem thrown together are well.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No title.

    While I was surprised ITV used silverlight in the first place the universal use of flash is not necessarily a good thing.

    Some competition should exist, and IMHO, for video divx would be good. The quality is usually excellent, and the streams very fast.

    That said I don't know of any alternative for interactive media - such as flash games or intros etc.

    PS. Why the obscure headline? British TV firm? Surely being a you could use ITV, or even "britain's ITV" or similar and clarify in the main text for non-uk readers.

  36. Ashley Adams
    Thumb Up

    Hopefully this has fixed the looping ads

    I initially thought Silverlight was worth giving a chance until I saw how it behaved on ITV's website. I, like many others as seen in various forums including ITV's own have experienced the 'looping ads' bug.

    If you watched something on there heaven forbid your playback gets interrupted or you 'accidentally' decide to skip ahead. Instead of it playing your programme from where you left off, you had to sit through each ad break leading up to the point you want to resume from. Then it would almost always loop the last ad break forever and never play the actual show!!

    Its taken a lot of complaining by many people for ITV to finally have (hopefully) fixed this by moving to Flash.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AC @ 15:39

    Actually Flash tends to eat my CPU for lunch too, that's one of the reasons I have it disabled by default.

    As for crashiness, I wouldn't be surprised if it's one of the ad-blocking add-ons in Fireferret that's at fault there; at least that was what caused frequent browser crashes for me.

  38. Mathew White
    Thumb Up


    ITV player was the only reason I had silverlight installed, time to remove it. \o/

  39. ForthIsNotDead


    Why would anyone want to watch ITV? Or BBC for that matter. Seriously, is there *anything* worth watching?

    If it's not 'propaganda' Police catching villians type shows, it's "Flog your shit for 50 quid" shows, or fricking CSI. All designed to keep you drooling on the sofa while you eat your chips.

    Utter Shit.

    Blimey, I'm in a really bad mood today.

  40. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Dont want or need flash or sliverlight

    flash is a dogs dinner and eats far to much CPU. I have several old machines that even on a good day with the wind behind them cant run flash acceptably - and I get a LOT of crashes on different machines so it is flash. I can normally download the content and watch it in a non-proprietary media player on these old machines quite happily, skip adverts, skip seamlessly past useless content (90% on some sites) and then keep or ditch at my leisure.

    But more importantly my bandwidth requirements are much much reduced.

  41. brudinie
    Thumb Up

    Thank goodness!

    I tried to watch Demons using ITV player and unfortunately because I use Ubuntu (with Novell's crappy Moonlight) it didn't work once.

    Thankfully Linux users will now be able to enjoy the few quality shows ITV have to offer.

    Silverlight will be forever burdened by a hidden OS agenda- lets hope that this recent ditching of Silverlight is just one of the first of many nails in its coffin.

    At least Flash works on most operating systems (including 64bit Linux). Still, the fact that in 2009 we have to install a browser based plugin to watch video at all is pretty laughable- Roll on HTML 5!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    look up for comment

  43. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

    The vision thing...

    > a total defection from Silverlight isn't unexpected.

    Should've gone to <wellknown spectacle purveyors>. At first I read that as 'a total defecation from Silverlight', and what's more it still made perfect sense.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ ThomH

    4od has used flash for ages.

  45. TeeCee Gold badge

    The pros and cons.

    You've all forgotten something.

    When a silverlight vuln is identified you get a KB article detailing the problem with a workaround ASAP and a patch for it on the first Tuesday of the following month (or out-of-band if it's really serious and wild examples of the exploit are proliferating).

    When a flash vuln is identified you get six months of denial and FUD from Adobe and a patch some time after the following christmas if you're lucky.

    Also, one of these proprietary products has a compatible open-source product that's tacitly supported by its originator, whereas the other is as closed as the minds of its owners.

    Still, let's not let common sense get in the way of a good M$ bashing......carry on.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can't believe yours was the first comment on Silverlite and it crappiness on Linux. I never got Moonlight to work properly (it didn't even think it was installed, straight after being installed). On the other hand, iPlayer/Flash works fine in Firefox on my Ubuntu system (2Ghz Athlon XP, so no real horsepower there), it also works on the Wii which is a bonus for the sprogs, as does YouTube etc (But not youporn - come on Nintendo, time to update the Flash support on the Wii! - actually that's for me not the sprogs).

    On the other hand, the complete dearth of anything worth watching on any channel at the moment is rather disappointing.

    As for a comment above on hardware acceleration, the Flash source code base does allow for hardware acceleration, both for video decoding and interestingly for OpenVG. If you don't have the right driver though, you won't have it. I think that would be down to the video driver but a bit out of my field.

  47. Jess

    @Ben Ryves

    On the PC in question (dual core but with a relatively old graphics card.) iPlayer plays full screen very well as do HD (1080p) files. Silverlight wasn't very good, certainly not good enough to persevere given the quality of ITV programmes.

    C4 OD told me that my OS wasn't supported. Given the fact that i was using windows 7, I was unimpressed. (It also didn't work on a mac or Linux or any over the older versions of windows that I have licenses for.) This was a while ago, have things changed?

  48. Defiant


    I thought Silverlight was out on all the platforms now

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Good move, but no difference in our house

    My missus likes to watch Corrie (yes, yes, I know) and when ITV recently started to get tough with the bods uploading each episode to YouTube, she headed off to to find out how to continue watching. She refused to install SilverShite on her Mac (good girl!) so had to resort to our favourite torrent site.

    Now they're back on Flash, we'll only have to content with the stupid country-based IP blocking.

    Nah... we'll just stick with the torrents thanks.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    RE: HTML5

    "My only hope is that Silverlight completely fails so Microsoft adopt an "if we can't control it, no-one can" attitude and discuss then implement at least an attempt at rich media for HTML 5."

    Which would be useless. The reason Flash and Silverlight were used in the first place is because both are throwing money into content protection to stop stream ripping.

    HTML 5 hasn't even thought about that.

  51. brudinie


    Silverlight is only available on Windows and the Mac (although I've heard pretty bad things from Mac users).

    Moonlight, a crappy Novell attempt at reverse engineering silversh1te, is the *nix flavour of the plug-in.

    So in short - no it is not available on all platforms now.

    Until Microsoft create a Linux version themselves it is not a cross-platform solution, period.

  52. Dave Coventry
    Big Brother

    Microsoft would have planned for this

    Microsoft will not give up on this, the potential rewards are too great.

    Microsoft's attempts to lock out users of competing OS's might have hit a little bit of a hurdle, but I'm pretty sure that this would not have been unexpected at Redmond.

    In the end, I'm pretty sure that Microsoft will triumph in this.

  53. John Bailey


    Silverlight is another MS "We want to run everything" technology. Want to watch something with Silverlight, you need other MS tech to make it run "properly". MS SOP. Nothing new there.

    I just want it to die. A painful but quick death.

    Nothing against Microsoft, I use hardly any of their products any more. And I want to be able to make a choice based on what I want. Not on what they have been able to smooth talk some media company exec into using.

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