What is this Silverlight thing, and what is Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)? Silverlight, which is now in its fourth iteration, was originally developed to provide developers with a way to create rich Internet applications, using standard .NET tools and languages. Rich Internet applications (RIA) became the de facto standard for Web 2.0–style applications. These applications typically would forgo the traditional post-back model where users click a link and the entire page is refreshed with new data. Instead, RIA web applications make use of a new programming standard called Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) in order to update only the parts of the web page that actually need to be updated instead of refreshing the entire page.

Taking advantage of RIA's updating method enhances the end user experience; users don't have to sit and wait for an entire page to be reloaded when only one small area is actually being changed. It also reduces the actual bandwidth used on the web server because a much smaller amount of data is transmitted over the wire.

AJAX-based solutions were typically written using raw HTML and JavaScript. As you may know, trying to write an application using raw HTML and JavaScript presents several challenges. When working in an AJAX environment, you need to test against many different web browsers, and each one has its own slightly different take on how JavaScript calls are supposed to perform. In addition, not all browsers support ...

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