Microsoft shifts Bing Maps Bird’s Eye Silverlight feature to AJAX, looks to HTML5

By Tom Warren, on 2nd Nov 10 7:54 pm with 42 Comments

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will discontinue investment in the Bing Maps 3D control plug-in.

The Bing Maps 3D control plug-in allows users to see Microsoft’s “Bird’s eye” view which includes smooth zooming/panning, life-like building models and 3D-like terrain features. The 45-degree perspective was introduced in Bing’s Silverlight client last year. Microsoft said on Tuesday that the Bird’s Eye view will be available “very soon” without plug-ins and at scale with Bing’s AJAX map control and on the Bing.com/maps website. Users will no longer require Silverlight to experience Bird’s eye.

“With the new capabilities available in Bing.com/maps, the growth in Silverlight use, and the future with HTML5, we have also heard that customers want the best experience for the most people, without custom plugins for individual features. We have designed the new enhanced Bird’s eye with this in mind, so that the enhanced experience is accessible by users across technologies and platforms including desktop and mobile,” said Brian Hendricks, Bing Maps manager.

Hendricks says that as a consequence of making Bing Maps Bird’s Eye view available across all platforms, “we will be discontinuing investment in the Bing Maps 3D control plug-in.” Microsoft says it will phase out the 3D Maps plug-in in the coming weeks as the new version comes online at Bing.com/maps.

The timing of Microsoft’s Bing Maps announcement is uncanny. The company has been responding to controversy over Bob Muglia’s comments to ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft will be abandoning Silverlight in favour of HTML5. Muglia confirmed that the company’s strategy and focus for Silverlight has shifted. Microsoft will now focus on HTML5 as its cross-platform strategy.

Update: Title corrected as Microsoft may not be fully removing the Silverlight Bing Maps featured just yet, only shifting them to AJAX.

  • András Velvárt

    The Bing maps 3D plugin is actually not Silverlight. It is an ActiveX control. If you read the quote you put in your post, you will see that Microsoft is keeping the Silverlight and the Ajax versions, because these work better than the custom 3D plugin this site was using.

    I know you want to ride the Silverlight-hate wave, but please do your articles more carefully. This change is actually pro-Silverlight, and illustrates how Silverlight can remove the necessity of custom plugins that only work for one website. If you had just visited the URL in your post (bing.com/maps, which is a full Silverlight site), you would see that this is one of the finest examples on why Silverlight still rules over HTML5 when it comes to premium experiences.

    András Velvárt
    Silverlight MVP

    • Tom W

      Andras, I’ve updated the title and footnote to reflect this. Microsoft is still shifting to AJAX for Bing Maps to support features that have been Silverlight only before. It’s hardly pro-silverlight when they feel a need to mention HTML5 and have built a AJAX version. Why not stick with just Silverlight?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TB2VKZ273FZZAX42CIKPOZFZ7I Bill Reiss

      Silverlight still provides the best Bing Maps experience and I didn’t read anywhere that it’s going away. They are just *also* offering some of those features in an HTML/AJAX version for platforms/people that don’t have Silverlight installed. Is that a bad thing? Is it bad news for Silverlight? No, but it’s good news for Bing offering the best experience they can cross platform, including Silverlight where it is available.

    • András Velvárt

      What is happening, is that one (ONE!) feature that has only been available through Silverlight or the custom evil 3D plugin is now added to the Ajax version. I would hardly call that shifting.

      Bing Maps is an application that shows how HTML and Silverlight can work together. For real cross-platform (read: phones) compatibility, and for those who do not have Silverlight installed, it provides a baseline experience. With maps, and now Birds-eye view.
      For those with Silverlight, it provides the best user experience on the web when it comes to maps. Just try it. It has apps! It has almost 3D Streetview (Streetside)! It has Photosynth integrated which is simply not doable in HTML. It has the smoothest zooming experience on the planet (pun intended!). It has the Birds Eye View (aerial photos) integrated so well, you don’t even realize that its there, just wonder at the amazing imagery.

      This is why I said that Bing Maps is one of the best example of what Bob Muglia really said on Friday. HTML provides the baseline, basic experience, the common denominator if you like. And it is (more or less) cross-browser, cross-platform. But if you really want to give premium experience, if you really want to amaze your users, you will use Silverlight (or Flash). Because the HTML5 demos of today were possible with Silverlight 1.0. And that was three years ago. HTML5 = Silverlight 1. But Silverlight is at version 4 right now, and MS is working hard on vNext.

      HTML is for average experiences (compared to what is possible). Yes, the average gets higher every year, and things you thought were impossible are now possible, but don’t be fooled – the plugins advance even faster. Bing Maps is the best example for this.

  • Ryan

    Is there any reason why you removed Andras’ Comment?

    • Tom W

      It’s not removed…

  • Vic Klien

    Hi Tom,

    I don’t read the Bing post as deprecating anything related to Silverlight. I think the “Bing Maps 3D control” that _was_ deprecated in the Bing post is a separate ActiveX control, unrelated to Silverlight:

    See: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb259695.aspx

    “The Bing Maps 3D control is an ActiveX plugin that you must download into your Internet Explorer browser.”

    Vic Klien

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TB2VKZ273FZZAX42CIKPOZFZ7I Bill Reiss

    Your title is still inaccurate and misleading.

    • Tom W

      Why? There’s two separate announcements here:

      1) 3D activex plug-in is being removed.
      2) AJAX version of Bing maps to be made available alongside Silverlight version. Silverlight no longer required for Bing Maps Bird’s eye view.

      In my opinion that’s Microsoft shifting Bing Maps over to AJAX from Silverlight as you no longer require it!

    • András Velvárt

      The Ajax version has always been available, thats why “AJAX version of Bing maps to be made available alongside Silverlight version” is misleading. It just received one more feature. The news here is that the activeX plugin is being removed, to which I applaud loudly (although I loved the 3D view it provided, and which neither the SL nor the HTML version can do).

    • Victor

      Really, then if this is the case (in your own words):

      2) AJAX version of Bing maps to be made available alongside Silverlight version. Silverlight no longer required for Bing Maps Bird’s eye view.

      How can you say Bing is SHIFTING from Silverlight to Ajax when they are BOTH available??? A SHIFT implies one is replacing the other. You are making our point for us! The title is completely misleading and wrong.

  • András Velvárt

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the update. However, can I please ask you to do one more correction? Because new features are being added to the Silverlight site, and even though the Ajax version may receive the birds eye view soon, the Silverlight experience will remain superior for the foreseeable future. There is no shifting here, only that basic mapping can now be done with Ajax for more cross-platform reach.

    András

  • http://twitter.com/HighOnSoftware Pedro Roque

    For cry’n out loud! Have you even read the annoucement?

    Because if you did, you have no excuse for posting this crap. They state that an activX control is going away, BEACAUSE Silverlight has enough momentum to make the previous plugin irrelevant.

    And what about the Windows Phone 7? Does the bing map SILVERLIGHT control on WP7 is going away, too?

    Jesus, man. Got het laid and stop making stuff up.

    Sorry if I look to be angry. That’s beacause I am.

  • http://advertboy.wordpress.com/ jose

    Silverlight was never meant to replace HTML for REACH experiences. Silverlight helped give Bing maps that RICH experience when HTML/Browsers were not up for the challenge. That was a while back and the browser world has greatly improved since then.. It’s all about the right technology for the job, if a feature can be delivered purely on the browser using HTML/JS and with vry good user experience Silverlight will be happy to step aside for that, I am a Silverlight MVP and if Bing was my client I would recommend Bing move in the HTML/JS pure browser path if it made sense, and I’m sure most technology people in my position would recommend that too!

    Everyday i make decisions of wether to go HTML/JS or Silverlight for a solution, it’s whatever is best for the client and their requirements.

    You journalist’s are such sensationalists!

  • http://twitter.com/DanielEran Daniel Eran Dilger

    Microsoft is moving to HTML5 because it has no way to install Silverlight on iOS devices. With Apple now accounting for a quarter of all smartphones with iPhone and essentially all tablets sold with the iPad, it would be absurd for Microsoft to pursue a strategy that only works on Windows 7 PCs and WP7 phones, neither of which have any hope of entering the vast and critical mobile market in any meaningful way.

    • Light

      What you are saying is true, but only for a 1 or 2 years to come
      With WP7, Android, the future Blackberry and Nokia, Apple will flat numbers and decrease market share.
      Apple gadgets are transient fashions. They innovate, true, but now the competitors get them.
      When will born another fad, today market share of iOs will be a distant memory.

      Html5 must be supported as natural standard evolution, BUT plugins will forever exist to innovate and create new dev options, (for example the upcoming 3D graphic) that SLOW standard progress just can’t supply

  • Victor

    That control is ActiveX NOT Silverlight. Try some responsible journalism for once.

    • Tom W

      If you cared to read for one minute you’d see I haven’t stated that it is Silverlight. I’m referring to the birds eye view features being ported to AJAX and the fact you no longer require Silverlight to see these. READ.

    • Victor

      If you cared about responsible journalism instead of sensationalism you would change your title from “Microsoft shifts Bing Maps Silverlight features to AJAX, looks to HTML5″ to “Microsoft’s Bing Maps has added an AJAX piece of functionality previously only available in Silverilght, looks to HTML5″ Because the way it reads currently implies that it has Shifted and Dropped the Silverlight functionality which is completely wrong. You are completely irresponsible and you make me sick. And someone that is a tech journalist has to know the difference, if you don’t you should think about getting a new job becaues you clearly are not qualified.

    • victor

      Do you think it is a coincidence that EVERYONE that is commenting on this sensationalist article, save for one other person is telling you that you are WRONG? You are trouncing all over your journalistic reputation by trying to cash in on an unfortunate statement taken out of context. If you REALLY are that misinformed and have such horrible reading comprehension you should hang up your keyboard.

    • Tom W

      If you cared to read for one minute you’d see I haven’t stated that it is Silverlight. I’m referring to the birds eye view features being ported to AJAX and the fact you no longer require Silverlight to see these. READ.

  • majg

    Wow!

    I read that same blog post by Brian Hendricks but comprehended it quite differently than you.

  • Tom W

    Article updated so please read fully before commenting.

  • Anonymous

    Journalism is so misleading sometimes. It is kind of sad, especially with a lot of users looking for the truth “actual news” and getting articles like this. I feel bad for giving you a hit and even taking the time to comment but I came here thinking there was news here instead of seeing a very incorrect twist on something that is very far from the truth.

  • WebDeveloper

    Silverlight is soooooooo dead!

    • Victor

      Haha and you call yourself a web developer? Do you only know how to develop websites in HTML? You do realize that HTML-only websites are very simple and not meant for a Rich Internet User Experiences, don’t you? LOL Might it be that you are 18, still in college and make simple, informational websites in your spare time for about $300 a pop, am I close?
      Silverlight and Flash are meant for premium LOB applications and websites with a very rich user experience that simply not be created using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. End of story. If you want to play in the Kiddie yard with your HTML sites then please feel free but please don’t comment on things you know nothing about; it just makes you appear foolish and uninformed.

    • Web enterpreneur

      Oh yes, child troll.
      Silverlight will NEVER die, perhaps transform over the years, because plugins ar created to do all HTML do and other 10000 things in a super environment and great productivity, error prone way.
      Stay with notepad and html, WE, SILVERLIGHT DEVELOPERS, are working here and have no time to reply to a ignorant troll like u.
      Study please, then talk.

  • Fequois

    Chill down for God’s sake, why does it anger you so much? Don’t assault people, and, if you find it so terrible then stop reading. Simple.

  • JohnQ

    Microsot has seen the writing on the wall and it was “HTML5″. Silverlight will linger on but only as a WinPhone7 dev platform. All those angry comments and posts from Silverlight developers remind me of the “uproar” by VB6 developers when .NET came along. They too were a loyal MS customer base that got screwed by a MS shift in direction. But instead of leaving angry comments on blog posts, why not do something useful and pick up an HTML5 book?

    • Victor

      John, the angry posts are because this article is totally misleading. If you would read the comments you would know that. The truth is Bing has built a new AJAX, HTML5 control to live along side the current Silverilght one. So, if someone without the Silverlight plugin comes to the site they will see the AJAX version. The title is misleading because it says that Bing has Shifted from Silverlight to AJAX, hinting that it is dropping the SL control for the AJAX one which is completely untrue.

    • András Velvárt

      Maybe because HTML5 = Silverlight 1.0? Because if we go for HTML, the only thing we gain is reach – but use the richness and quality of Silverlight apps? We would lose the productivity, elegance and maintainability of a Silverlight code. We would lose all the amazing development tools, and have to go back 5 years in time to a script language, browser quirks and incompatibilities, and a huuuge test matrix for each browser and their latest 3-4 versions.

      I am not saying that HTML is not good. I would not develop a blog or news site in Silverlight. Each has its own place, but the place for Silverlight is PREMIUM media experiences, and PREMIUM Line of Business applications. Just see the difference between Bing maps with and without Silverlight, and you will understand what I mean.

    • András Velvárt

      Ahh, and I forgot that HTML still does not have a decent designer-developer workflow. Why do I have to rewrite my HTML / CSS code, if the guy with Photoshop or Illustrator decides that something has to be 1 pixel bigger?

  • Fastkoder

    Tom this is a terrible article and even with the update it is unbelievably misleading. Apologize for this post, re-write the article and then re-release it with a promise to never to anything this moronic again.

    Here are your talking points:

    1. Bing Maps now relies solely on the Silverlight plug-in and the AJAX map if Silverlight is not installed.

    2. With the marketshare that Bing has been stealing from Google they are bulking up their HTML5 support and have added 3D to their AJAX map.

    3. When a consumer visits the Bing map page and they don’t have Silverlight installed they will be shown the AJAX version and THIS IS SO IMPORTANT TOM…they will be urged to install the Silverlight run-time.

    You see, this change in effect will bring about an estimated 3-5% market penetration growth for Silverlight which is already at 60%. Instead of a consumer being directed to the page and told they need to install the ActiveX plugin or the Silverlight run-time before they proceed they will now have a fully usuable AJAX version so they will stay on the site longer. The entire time they are on the site they will have a handy link to upgrade from the AJAX version to the Silverlight version.

    Feel free to use the truth I’ve posted here in its entirety. Use it word for word, I won’t be offended. Your biggest problem right now is that your post made it onto techmeme and you now look like a fool in front of the entire world.

  • http://twitter.com/kimsk kimsk

    Does Microsoft stops investing on Silverlight version of Bing Map? If not, the title is so misleading. Shame on you to try to get the traffic to your site this way.

  • http://twitter.com/darkon_ Chad

    Agree with the chorus of everyone else here. Bad journalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chenxin Xin Chen

    although the days of sliverlight on the web is numbers, you have to praise ms for trying and been willing to throw it away when its time has past.

    • Victor

      Its so sad to see comments from some people like yourself who have NO IDEA of what they are talking about. Please tell me how SL is numbered. While you are at it tell me how Flash’s days are numbered too because it logically flows that if SL’s time is up then Flash’s time is up too.

  • Weqwe

    Tom you are now officially a troll:

    “Update @ 3:30pm: Today’s announcement was around the end of life of the Active X-based 3D Map control and it has nothing to do with our commitment to Silverlight. We continue to invest in Silverlight functionality, which delivers the richest possible experience for our users. Specifically through our map apps that run in the browser on the PC and the Silverlight map control for Windows Phone 7 applications. “

  • Silverlightian

    Feels like I am reading Mary Jo Part 2 Article ! Bad journalism.Bottom Update should be Loud !!
    “Update: Title corrected as Microsoft may not be fully removing the Silverlight Bing Maps featured just yet, only shifting them to AJAX.”

    -Comment Sent via My “Silverlight Application” :)

  • http://twitter.com/BingMapsDev Bing Maps Developer

    Bing Maps is my passion and for developers using Silverlight don’t panic and throw down your tools. Even if nothing new comes to Silverlight (highly unlikely) there is still major impacts to be made on the geospatial industry. While investments have to be made in HTML5 by Microsoft to be ready for the next major breath platform, and of course the launch of IE9, on the innovation side Silverlight is far from completed.

    I consider the Bing Maps platform the most innovative Silverlight controls today bar none, I’m talking about psdeuo 3D from photos in Photosynth, the smoothest hardware accelerated web mapping thanks to SL4 DeepZoom and of course Streetside in Bing Maps.

    3 major points to consider:
    1. It only makes sense for the Bing Maps team to look at how the new capabilities in HTML5 could allow these innovations to be available without Silverlight. The AJAX control hasn’t seen major innovation for some time. I love to see the above in HTML5.
    2. Bing Maps is a platform, under all the controls is a rich set of common services. Anyone can build a Bing Maps control for any technology, this has always been a major feature of Bing Maps.
    3. Choose the technology that bests suits your application / business needs. For an intranet mapping LOB application nothing comes close to Silverlight.

    Today I’m only limited by my imagination with Silverlight, with VS2010 I have a great toolset to create visualisations to blow minds. I’m super happy with how Bing Maps performs in Silverlight4, my efforts are in how to get massive amounts of data onto the map, the techniques we pioneer and put into production system with Silverlight will be highly reusable when a HTML5 solution is delivered and catches up to where Silverlight is in years to come.

  • Frederic Dumesle

    Hello Chaps,

    You have your points but I only see one big problem with Silverlight, It cannot run on RIM/Android/iOS !!

    If Microsoft wants to keep Silverlight alive they have to either port it to other OS(Android/RIM/iOS) or Open Source SL entirely!

    Otherwise it will be a sitting duck within 2 years !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Marston/542557737 Jonathan Marston

    There has been a shift in Microsoft’s strategy for Silverlight, but not the one where Silverlight starts dying off or becomes just a mobile development platform that people keep talking about.

    Yes, Silverlight is becoming less about making pretty stuff for web sites because much of that role will be filled by HTML5 over the next couple years. However, Silverlight is only growing when it comes to creating applications; whether for the desktop, mobile, or web.

    At PDC this year in the “WPF Today and Tomorrow” session they suggested that .NET developers look at writing Windows applications in Silverlight first, and only use WPF if they determine that Silverlight won’t work for them. This is a strong indication that Microsoft only plans to grow Silverlight as an application platform.

    I think the confusion comes because people don’t distinguish between web sites and applications; web sites being content-driven experiences that will undoubtedly be HTML5 and no longer require plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight, and applications (again, whether on the desktop, mobile, or web) being more like traditional data-driven and/or content creation programs.

    Also keep in mind that Silverlight *is* cross-platform as it can run on Windows, Windows Phone, Nokia, Mac OSX and Linux (via Moonlight). This leaves out important platforms like RIM, Android, and iOS, but I think we expect that list to shrink over time.