Volta or Silverlight 2.0

Last Wednesday evening we had a presentation at the Avanade Netherlands office about Volta and what Volta could do for us in the future. The demo in the presentation showed us the possibilities that Volta can bring to software developing on the web. After this presentation we had a cool discussion about the question if Volta will really make it to the daily life of web based software development.

In my opinion with my current knowledge about Volta is that a lot of pro’s of Volta are also taken away by using Silverlight 2.0 on the client instead of html/javascript. I’ll sum up most pro’s of using Volta and then compare then to the use of Silverlight 2.0. Ofcourse most things said in this post are just my current ideas and opinions on the 2 projects which are far from complete products today.




Some pro’s on volta are: Dynamic/easy switching of the place where code is being executed. You can add a single line of code in a class and make it completely run on the client instead of on the server. If you want your code to run on the client Volta will generate javascript from your .net code after it’s compiled to the IL.

This power of volta makes it easy to just generate all your javascript instead of writing it all by yourself. Everyone knows writing/debugging loads of javascript can be a pain in the ass so of course it’s nice to program in C# or any other .net language you like. You can even set breakpoints on the c# code which you created and step through this when you are actually running generated javascript at that time.

Volta can also generate javascript which is compatible with the browser which is doing the current request so you don’t have to think about cross browser compatibility anymore.

All in all at the time Volta will be a fully grown product you can write your whole web application in 1 language instead of also having to write javascript to get your fancy web 2.0 look and feel on your web app.

After seeing the presentation about Volta I thought the only big feature Volta can bring is the possibility to dynamically change parts of code to run on the client or server. The other nice features are also brought to us with Silverlight 2.0 which makes it possible to write C# for the client side instead of javascript. In my opinion Silverlight even has more and better options to do this because  you have more powerfull tools in the Silverlight runtime which make it possible to make even fancier tools then you can in Javascript. One big example of something Silverlight can do which javascript will never do is that you can make real statefull apps instead of the stateless pages you’ll keep building in Javascript. Opening sockets to the server will never been done by javascript while it is easy to do in Silverlight 2.0


So if javascript is going away in both cases what does Volta bring that silverlight can’t handle? The only big thing that is left is changing your code to run on the server/client by adding a line of code to your class. Ofcourse this can be a really powerfull thing but in my opinion this wont be used that often and especially not in enterprise applications where my focus on my job is at.

In my opinion Silverlight 2.0 can become a really big revolution on the web IF and only IF Microsoft does everything it can to get the silverlight plugin on ALL pc’s as soon as possible (ofcourse after Silverlight 2.0 is released) The plugin has to be available for every browser no matter what OS. No matter what type of computer. Desktop or mobile. Everyone with Linux and Firefox or Windows and IE will have to get this plugin which has same functionality. So in my opinion Microsoft should develop the plugin for all browsers instead of only for windows+IE and let the moonlight project reverse engineer this plugin for a plugin that runs on linux. Volta instead of Silverlight doesn’t have this problem because the javascript code that’s being generated already runs on all sort’s of browsers on all OS’es.

We’ll have to see what the future brings but my money is on Silverlight being installed on 95% of all pc’s in a year or 2 so we don’t have to generate Javascript but can just make flashy c# code on the client.

Another option can also be that Volta will be generating Silverlight code instead of javascript so we get the best of both worlds :)

Do you have a different opinion? Please let me know in a comment!

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Volta, Seadragon and Photosynth. Cool stuff from Microsoft Live labs

Almost 1 month ago Microsoft showed us their first technology preview of Volta. Volta is a new technology by Microsoft which makes it possible to change code to run on the server or client by only changing 1 line of code.

Imagine the possibilities on proof of concept projects where you don’t know where the bottlenecks will be. With this technology you can just build a test application and when you’re finished you can change pieces of code to run on the client or server to increase performance. Go and download the Volta technology preview on the live labs site now.

Another thing I wanted to show you is Seadragon. Seadragon is another technology by Live Labs from Microsoft. Seadragon is a technology where really high resolution pictures are stored on a server and you can zoom into them on the client. This makes it really easy to watch really high resolution images without having them on the client location. The Server application only sends the information that the client can see to the client application. These generated images are far less big in size as the original images are on the server.

Photosynth is another technology made by Live Labs and it is using the Seadragon technology to stream the images to the client. Photosynth is a tool to view a collection of images based on the location of where the images are taken. Photosynth can scan through a big collection of images of for example a big building and make up a 3d model of this building by using the images in the collection. You can view the building by selecting the angle of a specific image and the application will load that image with the Seadragon technology. From this new angle on the building you can zoom or select another image and you can take a virtual tour around the building like that.

You can test Photosynth on the live labs website with a few collections off famous buildings/objects like the NASA space shuttle Endeavour or Piazza San marco in Venice.

I found a really nice video about Seadragon and Photosynth on Youtube. If you want to see what is possible with these new technologies you really have to check it out.


I really think these technologies can grow big if you combine it for example with sites as Flickr so you can get a really new experience browsing through pictures.

Geert van der Cruijsen


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