August 15, 2001 12:10 PM PDT

Web standards body advances TV features

The goal of making the Web act more like television has inched closer to reality with the revision of a key multimedia standard.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) last week recommended SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) 2.0, the second take on a specification that lets Web authors sync images, text and sound.

In line with the industry's trend toward handheld computers, version 2.0 comes equipped with a subset called SMIL Basic tailored for use with non-PC devices such as handheld computers and cell phones.

"SMIL 1 was definitely written with the desktop computer in mind," said W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly. "SMIL 2 comes in two big sets of modules. One has everything but the kitchen sink and does everything you can imagine on the desktop. The other delivers synchronized multimedia to the handheld."

Collaborating on the development of SMIL Basic were cell phone makers Nokia and Panasonic.

SMIL 2.0 features a large complement of transition types, such as visual fades with or without audio. A handful of these were part of SMIL 1, but SMIL 2.0 comes with more than 100.

With 2.0, SMIL adds a degree of interactivity to multimedia presentations, allowing for events to be triggered by mouse clicks, keystrokes or streamed events, such as the launch of a commercial break.

Also last week, the W3C published a working draft of a related specification that will time multimedia events in conjunction with elements on an HTML page.

The XHTML+SMIL Profile originates from a dispute between the SMIL working group and the troika of Microsoft, Compaq Computer and Macromedia, which wanted closer integration between SMIL and HTML, the Web's basic markup language. XHTML is HTML's successor, written in XML (Extensible Markup Language).


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