The convergence of Web and TV came closer last week as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) issued its recommendation for the Synchronised Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL, pronounced "smile").
SMIL allows Web developers to synchronise diverse multimedia streams such as video, audio, text and animation, to produce the type of experience normally associated with TV. SMIL is a simple text markup language, and does not require any coding or server-side extensions. As it fully integrates with normal HTML, it includes the ability to add hotlinks to any part of the presentation, bringing the interactive capabilities of the Web to TV-like content.
SMIL reduces the bandwidth needed to display rich multimedia by reducing the amount of video content in the feed. In a typical scenario, a newsfeed's screen will contain a large proportion of text, still images and graphical elements. SMIL allows these low bandwidth media types to be sent as they are, without the need to be converted into high bandwidth video. Because the video elements are reduced, the files download faster.
Not only is SMIL easy to learn and use from a designer's point of view, but it also increases accessibility and the ability to tailor the feed to different geographical audiences. Audio feeds in different languages can be included to cater for different markets, and textual descriptions of multimedia, support for captioning and alternate media types cater for those with disabilities.
"It's down to software vendors to build in support to encourage people to use it," said Steve Cook, Webmaster at Bluewave. "It's interesting to see the first wave of XML applications coming through, opening up doors (to developers)."
The W3C recommendation means that the language is stable, has been accepted by W3C members as a standard, and contributes to Web interoperability.
Several key players have pledged their support for it, including Netscape and RealNetworks, which has an excellent guide to SMIL on its Web site (www.real.com).
BT wants to make the public switched telephone network history within eight years
Personal data being purloined by third parties via Facebook Login API
MacOS and iOS are better off apart, says CEO Tim Cook
Or they'll no longer be entitled to updates and bug patches