Head along to www.microsoft.com/silverlight/ to take a look at Silverlight 2 - which was released last night.

Listed below are some of the highlights of Silverlight 2 which are full supported by Expression Blend 2 SP1 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SP1. Click here for links to evals of the tools.

·         Expanded .NET Framework language support. Unlike other runtimes, Silverlight 2 supports a variety of programming languages, including Visual Basic, C#, Managed JavaScript, IronPython and IronRuby, making it easier for developers already familiar with one of these languages to repurpose their existing skills.

­    Cutting-edge RIA development. With Silverlight 2, developers do not have to pay the “productivity tax” of converting their existing code to JavaScript to run inside the client. With support for languages such as Ruby and Python, Silverlight 2 enables developers to be on the cutting edge of RIA development, creating Asynchronous Ruby and XML (ARAX) and Asynchronous Python and XML (APAX) applications.

·         A rich base class library. A compatible subset of the full .NET Framework gives developers the most comprehensive RIA runtime on the Web today, with unparalleled data access capabilities, local data caching and local data storage, superior input-output (IO) performance, and better threading. By leveraging the rich base class library of the .NET Framework, developers can minimize the amount of additional code they have to write for their projects.

­    Building better AJAX applications. Silverlight 2 includes APIs that enable the creation of better asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) applications, with improved HTML DOM/JavaScript integration with .NET code and with better data access through Language-Integrated Query (LINQ) and LINQ to XML library support.

·         Powerful built-in rich controls allow developers and designers to quickly build applications through a rich set of built-in controls such as DataGrid, ListBox, Slider, ScrollViewer and Calendar. With the rich controls built into Silverlight 2, developers don’t have to start from scratch when building the controls for their rich Internet applications.

·         Advanced styling and templating support gives designers and developers complete control over the look and feel of an application to ensure the custom brand experience for their rich Internet application meets their exacting requirements.

·         Rich UI Library. Silverlight 2’s UI Library, a compatible subset of the WPF user interface framework featured in the full .NET Framework, makes building rich Web applications easier. The powerful graphics and animation engine enables developers to reuse skills, code and content to build rich applications for the browser that can be rapidly ported to the desktop and devices.

­    Better support for higher-level UI capabilities. The UI Framework in Silverlight contains support for higher-level UI capabilities such as layout management, data-binding, styles and template skinning.

·         Comprehensive networking support enables Silverlight users to leverage the power of the .NET Framework’s Windows Communication Foundation and directly access resources on the Web by supporting cross-domain network access.

­    Out-of-the-box support for calling REST, WS*/SOAP, POX, RSS and standard HTTP services enables users to create Web 2.0-style applications that easily integrate with existing heterogeneous back-end systems.

·         Advanced content protection features, now including Silverlight digital rights management (DRM), Powered by PlayReady. Silverlight DRM builds on Microsoft’s extensive expertise in developing DRM technologies, delivering robust protection for key Silverlight scenarios including live streaming, on-demand streaming and progressive downloads for connected experiences.

·         Improved server scalability and expanded advertiser support. The combination of Silverlight 2 and Windows Server 2008 offers streaming video professionals industry-leading scalability and cutting-edge progressive download features. In addition, Silverlight offers superior search engine optimization capabilities and advanced in-stream advertising support through companies such as DoubleClick Inc. and EyeWonder Inc.

·         Unparalleled interactivity with high-resolution content through Deep Zoom technology. The new Deep Zoom technology in Silverlight allows users to see images on the Web as never before. The smooth, in-place zooming and panning that Deep Zoom allows is a true advancement and raises the bar on what image viewing should be. It is also now possible through this feature to make super-high-resolution images easily consumable on the Web. Even better, Deep Zoom is designed in a way that will reduce Web hosting and bandwidth costs by sending to the browser exactly the right size and resolution image for the current display area.