Enhancing the Web Experience with Silverlight in VB.NET

Print Denso QR Bar Code in VB.NET Enhancing the Web Experience with Silverlight

CHAPTER
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Enhancing the Web Experience with Silverlight
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sers are increasingly demanding richer and easier-to-use experiences on the Web. Consider the design of a web site 15 years ago when we first started using the Internet. At the time, web sites were simply considered documents that were hosted on a server and could be linked with each other. Over time, the document paradigm moved away in favor of the application paradigm. And then applications themselves became increasingly more sophisticated in nature. Consider, for example, mapping applications. Internetbased maps of yesteryear would provide you with a pretty small map of the desired location. This map would have control buttons to allow you to pan and zoom around the map. Clicking these buttons would cause a page refresh (and thus, a delay), after which you would receive a new small map. Ultimately, the experience was inferior to picking up and using a paper map. Then, using Ajax, mapping applications improved to the extent that they gave a better user experience than paper maps, and now have become an indispensable tool to everyone who uses the Internet. However, the basic technology hasn t really changed all that much since the days when web sites were simply hyperlinked documents. Thus, creating an application that has a high-quality and engaging UI requires a lot of engineering which can be an expensive undertaking at best. Pushing the limits of what can be done with HTML and its associated scripting languages is no mean feat, and can lead to incompatibilities between different browsers. Consider Ajax for example. Almost every Ajax application requires code a little like this:
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function createRequestObject() { var ajax_object; var browser = navigator.appName; if(browser == 'Microsoft Internet Explorer'){ ajax_object = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP"); }else{ ajax_object = new XMLHttpRequest();
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CHAPTER 15 s ENHANCING THE WEB EXPERIENCE WITH SILVERLIGHT
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} return ro; }
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And this only differentiates between Internet Explorer and Firefox. If you are not writing an Ajax application, but one that uses a non-ubiquitous technology such as CSS or DHTML, you are left querying the user agent and trusting that the server returns an honest answer. The user agent string is simply a text field that contains what the server believes the browser that is communicating with it is. It is relatively easy to overwrite, and thus, a browser from a mobile device (which doesn t support CSS) could be spoofed into thinking that it is Internet Explorer, and incompatible data would be delivered to it. It s pretty clear that HTML and scripting, while incredibly useful, are reaching the end of their serviceable lives with the growing expectations of users for richer and more dynamic applications. With that in mind, platform vendors have offered a number of technologies that enhance what HTML can do, with examples being things like Java applets, ActiveX controls, and Flash movies. A new technology in 2007 and one that has a number of unique and distinct value propositions that make it a compelling one is Microsoft Silverlight.
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Introducing Silverlight
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In 8, you looked at Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and a new technology that it provides called Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML). This language allows a UI and all its interactions to be defined with simple XML markup tags. This empowers a separation of design and development, so that the designer can become an integral part of the development process. In the past, a designer would make a mock-up, or comp, of the desired vision for the web site or application. This might be a set of wireframe drawings, pictures, simple animations, or scribbles on a piece of paper. The developer would have to take these visions and implement them, constrained by what the technology would permit. The result was often disappointing for both parties. With XAML, the designer can use tools (such as the Microsoft Expression suite) to design the graphics, interactions, animations, and media that they desire to have in the site, and the developer can simply take this XAML and activate it by writing the code behind it that allows it to be used as an application. Thus, the designer and the developer are working from a common set of artifacts, allowing next-generation designer-centric experiences to not just be possible, but to be relatively easy to implement. Silverlight is a plug-in for the browser that renders XAML and exposes a programming model in JavaScript. Thus, web developers have a new suite of tools and technologies in XAML that will allow them to take their sites to the next level of richness, but they still
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