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The Mono Project Releases Silverlight Clone Moonlight 2 December 22, 2009

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software development, Software platforms.

The Mono Project, an ambitious open source project to replicate in essential ways the Microsoft .NET Framework and associated tools, last week announced the availability of Moonlight 2, its version of Microsoft Silverlight.  It incorporates essentially all of the capabilities of Silverlight 2 and some of the newer Silverlight 3.

Mono is a bit of a quixotic effort, led by Miguel de Icaza, the originator of the project.  Years ago, the goal was to create an open source version of the .NET Framework that can run on alternative systems, especially Linux.  Because Microsoft turned the .NET Framework specification over to ECMA (it used to stand for the European Computer Manufacturers Association, but shortened it to ECMA International at least in part to its growth as a standards body) as a published standard, Mono is written from the spec, rather than reverse engineered.

De Icaza’s company was acquired by Novell several  years ago, and Mono has found its way into several of Novell’s network administration tools, including parts of Zenworks.  Because it is open source, it was also used in third party projects, including the Mainsoft .NET to Java cross-compiler from my friends at Mainsoft.

I haven’t looked in detail at the structure of Silverlight, but I’m guessing that Moonlight is a pretty easy derivative.  Silverlight is a subset of the .NET Framework, to be used on memory- and compute-limited devices, and for Web pages seeking to have a rich look and feel.  Silverlight hasn’t caught on in a very big way, at least not yet, so it’s not clear that Moonlight makes sense from a market standpoint.  It just may have been something that was easy to do, because the heavy lifting of replicating the .NET Framework in a larger way was already done.

De Icaza and his development team have had difficulty in keeping up with .NET Framework development, because the technical problem is a hard one, and because they have to wait for the new specifications to be published before work on new .NET versions can begin in earnest.

I call the Mono effort quixotic because of the impact it has made on development, and Microsoft development in particular, which is pretty small.  It’s not clear that there is a big market for using the Microsoft framework and languages on non-Windows systems.  Still, as a technical achievement over time, it is one of the most ambitious and focused projects of the decade.



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