If you're reading this, you probably run Windows. And if you run Windows, you may have noticed Microsoft Silverlight as an optional update. If you don't see it, you've probably already got it; check your Start Menu, and if you see Microsoft Silverlight, it's already installed in your system. This compact freeware is a cross-platform browser plug-in for enhancing online content and media on desktop and portable PCs as well as mobile devices. Silverlight is sort of like Flash in that it enables richer content in your browser, but the latest update greatly enhances support for mobile devices and apps. Most Windows users can download Silverlight as part of an update, but you can also download it directly right here.
We installed Silverlight and clicked its Start Menu entry to open its Configuration tool. Silverlight mostly works in the background, but it has some options, too, beginning with the Updates tab, which followed our system's settings. The Playback tab has two options: one for enabling or disabling Digital Rights Management components, and another for hardware acceleration. We could configure multiple Webcams, microphones, and other audio and video capture devices on the Webcam/Mic tab, which includes a very helpful preview pane. The last two tabs handle Permissions and Application Storage, respectively. That's all there is to it, really; there's no need to configure it inside your browsers. For example, we opened Firefox's add-ons manager, clicked Plug-ins, and opened Silverlight's page. We could check for updates or disable the plug-in, but that's it.
So does Silverlight make a difference? You can see for yourself, but there's no need to toggle the program on and off to evaluate its effects: simply search "Silverlight demo" or some similar phrase. The results will certainly include more than one Web site demonstrating Silverlight's capabilities in a variety of settings, including some pretty cool cutting-edge Web applications. Or just go to Silverlight's home page, which offers a showcase with lots of examples as well as documentation, a community, samples, and other resources.