Essentially a plugin across supported browsers (most), Microsoft’s Silverlight helps enhance and enrich your browsing experience. Much like similar application, it runs in the background and makes the most of the page you're on. When the question is: do I need it? The answer is simply that it often helps and is free, can't go too wrong here.
When it comes to installation, you might not even have to do it. A lot of computers now come with Silverlight pre-installed and running in the background without you being aware it's there. First thing to do is check your programmes to see if it is installed. If not, then the process is very straight forward, just as one would expect from Microsoft. Pretty much a click, download, install scenario with no hiccups that I could find.
As with Flash, most of the time you won't have to deal with the Silverlight's interface at all, it's doing its job without you having to bother. However, you will need to use an interface to get the most of the developers toolkit, allowing for web applications etc., and thankfully you're presented with a sturdy looking screen with an economical layout. On the left is a scrollable selection of option with various sub-headers. The rest of the screen is primarily spilt between an upper and lower, well, screen. The upper features the information you've clicked on and the lower displays this as different code. The whole thing has the appearance of an expensive box of chocolates: browns, silvers and golds. Not ugly by any means.
As with any programme, you have to ask whether it achieves the aims it sets out to. Simply: yes. When using the web on a compatible browser, you won't even know what Silverlight is doing. To find out though, google for comparisons with Silverlight running and with it not – quite a difference. On the developer side; Microsoft hasn't skimped on the options available, with 9 main sections which are further split into many multiples. Silverlight5 has an extra 40 additional controls over the previous iteration. Choices range from input and data visualisation to navigation and theme.
If some of this is a little above your head, there's an abundance of online support and help. Microsoft has really pushed the boat out here and there are numerous FAQ pages covering all the basics as well as multiple introductory videos lasting a solid half hour each. If you are still having concerns then you can get in contact with them very easily or dip into the dedicated forums to see if someone there can assist. Help is never far away, and for being a free product, that's an awful lot of support.
If you don't already have it, you cannot go wrong with Silverlight. It makes your internet experience better without you ever knowing it, nothing to complain about. Simply put, go and download it now!