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The ever-evolving interactive web space: Microsoft’s Silverlight initiative, Google’s love of JavaScript, Adobe’s comfortably massive Flash Platform

Microsoft’s Web design and development conference, MIX09, is currently happening in Las Vegas, Nevada. As is tradition with major corporate-backed events such as this one, a slew of new products were released. Of note is the Silverlight 3 beta (available here, but it sounds like it is very much a preview). The new features are extensive and—for many of them—sound very Flash-esque (Ryan Christensen’s site provides a nice write up of the new features). Along with Silverlight, Internet Explorer 8 was released out of beta, and thankfully sounds to be the most standards-compliant Internet Explorer version to date. It is foreseeable that if Microsoft were able to bundle the Silverlight plugin with a standard’s compliant browser that gained broad support from developers—without raising the eyebrows of antitrust regulators—that Flash would be presented with its greatest obstacle in maintaining its present dominance in the interactive website space.

In the mean time, while Adobe and Microsoft develop increasingly similar looking products, Google and open source initiatives such as JQuery UI are moving JavaScript beyond a mere scripting language. Google has launched a site called Chrome Experiments, which showcases contemporary interactive pieces built entirely in JavaScript. Many are quite impressive, for example, this piece could easily be a Flash piece (turn your speakers on). I noticed Flash master Mr. Doob has a piece up there too. The about page begins “We think JavaScript is awesome.” I’ve been playing with JQuery UI recently and I do have to admit it has come a long way from what JavaScript was capable of when I really seriously last played with it in the late 90′s.

At any rate it’s exciting to see the explosion of possibilities all these projects will bring. More than ever the Web feels like the digital frontier.