Microsoft Silverlight 4 vs. Microsoft Silverlight 5

What's the Difference?

Microsoft Silverlight 4 and Microsoft Silverlight 5 are both web application frameworks developed by Microsoft. However, there are some key differences between the two versions. Silverlight 4 was released in 2010 and introduced several new features such as improved printing support, enhanced data binding capabilities, and the ability to create out-of-browser applications. On the other hand, Silverlight 5, released in 2011, brought even more advancements including support for 3D graphics, improved media playback, and better performance. Additionally, Silverlight 5 introduced features like P/Invoke, which allows developers to call native code from within Silverlight applications. Overall, Silverlight 5 offered more advanced features and improvements compared to its predecessor, making it a more powerful and versatile framework for web application development.


AttributeMicrosoft Silverlight 4Microsoft Silverlight 5
Release DateApril 15, 2010December 9, 2011
Supported PlatformsWindows, Mac OS XWindows, Mac OS X
Browser SupportInternet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, ChromeInternet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome
FeaturesRich media, animations, graphics, data bindingEnhanced graphics, improved performance, 3D graphics, trusted applications
Out-of-Browser SupportYesYes
Hardware AccelerationPartialFull
Media Format SupportWMV, WMA, MP3, MP4, AACWMV, WMA, MP3, MP4, AAC, H.264
SecurityPartial trust, sandboxedPartial trust, sandboxed
Development ToolsVisual Studio, Expression BlendVisual Studio, Expression Blend

Further Detail


Microsoft Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating rich internet applications and media experiences. With each new version, Microsoft introduces enhancements and new features to improve the overall user experience and developer productivity. In this article, we will compare the attributes of Microsoft Silverlight 4 and Microsoft Silverlight 5, highlighting the advancements made in the latter version.

Performance and Rendering

One of the key areas where Microsoft Silverlight 5 excels is in performance and rendering capabilities. It introduces hardware acceleration for graphics, which allows for smoother animations and transitions. This improvement significantly enhances the overall visual experience for users. Additionally, Silverlight 5 introduces a new graphics stack that provides improved text rendering, making text appear crisper and more readable.

Another notable enhancement in Silverlight 5 is the introduction of a 64-bit version, which allows for better utilization of system resources and improved performance on 64-bit operating systems. This is particularly beneficial for applications that require heavy processing or deal with large datasets.

Furthermore, Silverlight 5 introduces a new feature called "TrickPlay" that enables users to watch videos at different speeds without affecting the audio pitch. This feature is especially useful for educational or training applications where users may want to slow down or speed up video playback to better understand the content.

Media and DRM

Microsoft Silverlight has always been a popular choice for media-rich applications, and Silverlight 5 builds upon this strength. It introduces several improvements in media playback, including support for adaptive streaming, which allows for seamless playback of media content even in fluctuating network conditions. This ensures a smooth and uninterrupted viewing experience for users.

In addition to adaptive streaming, Silverlight 5 also introduces digital rights management (DRM) enhancements. It provides support for protected content playback on Windows Phone devices, making it easier for developers to create applications that require DRM-protected media playback across multiple platforms.

Moreover, Silverlight 5 introduces the ability to capture high-quality audio and video streams from webcams and microphones, enabling developers to create applications that leverage real-time media capture and processing. This opens up new possibilities for video conferencing, live streaming, and other interactive media applications.

Application Development

When it comes to application development, Silverlight 5 introduces several new features and enhancements that improve developer productivity and enable the creation of more sophisticated applications.

One of the most significant additions in Silverlight 5 is the support for elevated trust out-of-browser applications. This means that developers can now create applications that have more access to system resources and can perform tasks such as reading and writing files, accessing local databases, and interacting with COM components. This opens up new possibilities for creating powerful desktop-like applications using Silverlight.

Silverlight 5 also introduces improved data binding capabilities, including support for binding to dynamic objects and the ability to specify binding in XAML. This simplifies the development process and makes it easier to create data-driven applications.

Additionally, Silverlight 5 introduces the ability to debug applications remotely, allowing developers to debug Silverlight applications running on different machines or devices. This is particularly useful for troubleshooting issues in production environments or testing applications on various configurations.

Furthermore, Silverlight 5 includes several enhancements to the XAML designer, making it easier to design and layout user interfaces. It introduces a new "PathListBox" control that enables developers to create rich and interactive list controls with complex item layouts.

Accessibility and Localization

Microsoft Silverlight 5 places a strong emphasis on accessibility and localization, ensuring that applications can reach a wider audience and comply with accessibility standards.

One of the key accessibility enhancements in Silverlight 5 is the support for screen readers, allowing visually impaired users to navigate and interact with Silverlight applications using assistive technologies. This improves the overall accessibility of applications and ensures that they can be used by individuals with disabilities.

In terms of localization, Silverlight 5 introduces improved support for right-to-left languages, making it easier to create applications that cater to different language orientations. It also provides enhanced support for complex scripts, allowing developers to create applications that display and handle non-Latin characters correctly.

Furthermore, Silverlight 5 introduces the ability to specify custom cursors, enabling developers to create unique and visually appealing cursor styles that align with the branding and design of their applications. This adds a level of customization and personalization to the user experience.


Microsoft Silverlight 5 brings a host of new features and enhancements that further solidify its position as a leading platform for creating rich internet applications and media experiences. From improved performance and rendering capabilities to enhanced media playback and DRM support, Silverlight 5 offers developers the tools they need to create compelling and interactive applications.

With its focus on developer productivity, Silverlight 5 introduces features like elevated trust out-of-browser applications, improved data binding, and remote debugging, making it easier and more efficient to build sophisticated applications. Additionally, its emphasis on accessibility and localization ensures that applications can reach a wider audience and comply with accessibility standards.

Overall, Microsoft Silverlight 5 is a significant upgrade over its predecessor, Silverlight 4, and provides developers with a powerful and versatile platform for creating rich and engaging user experiences on the web.

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