The World Wide Web Consortium Issues SMIL 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation

Cross-Industry Support for Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language, Bringing TV-Like Content to the Web

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Yumiko Matsubara, <>, +81.466.49.1170 -- 15 June, 1998 -- Leading the Web to its full potential, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today released the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL; pronounced "smile") specification as a W3C Recommendation, representing cross-industry agreement on a wide range of features for putting multimedia presentations on the Web. A W3C Recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who favor its adoption by the industry.

"Synchronized multimedia is becoming increasingly important on the Web. The SMIL Recommendation will enable much-needed interoperability in this area," explained Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and Inventor of the World Wide Web. SMIL enables authors to bring television-like content to the Web, avoiding the limitations for traditional television and lowering the bandwidth requirements for transmitting this type of content over the Internet. With SMIL, producing audio-visual content is easy; it does not require learning a programming langauge and can be done using a simple text editor.

The SMIL 1.0 specification was written and developed by the W3C Synchronized Multimedia (SYMM) Working Group, a unique mix of experts from the four divergent industries (CD-ROM, Interactive Television, Web, and audio/video streaming) interested in bringing synchronized multimedia to the Web. The W3C SYMM Working Group is comprised of key industry players including Digital, Lucent/Bell Labs, Netscape, Philips, RealNetworks and The Productivity Works; as well as research and government organizations such as CWI (Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science, the Netherlands) and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA).

Enables TV-Like Content

Television programs such as newscasts or training programs use many multimedia components. In these programs, the display of image, text and animation elements needs to be synchronized.

The Web is already a multimedia environment, but lacks a simple way to express synchronization over time -- for example, "play audio file A in parallel with video file B" or "show image C after audio file A has finished playing". SMIL enables this type of information to be easily expressed, thus allowing TV-like content to be created on the Web.

"SMIL will take the Web to new places," said Dr. Philipp Hoschka, W3C Multimedia Activity Lead and Chair of the SYMM Working Group. "HTML did a fine job of allowing static multimedia content on the Web. SMIL greatly expands the Web's capability to integrate dynamic media types such as audio, video or animations."

Enhances Web Experiences

Of course, the Web offers far more than just television. For example, a search engine can be used to find a particular SMIL presentation. As the Web is inherently interactive, users can use links embedded into a SMIL presentation to obtain background information on a newscast, or to order a product described in a commercial. With SMIL, users can switch from 'couch-potato' mode into interactive mode with a simple mouse click.

Improves Bandwidth Efficiency

In a typical television news broadcast, large parts of the screen contain text, still images and graphical elements, with full-motion video occupying only a small part of the screen real estate. A key advantage of SMIL is that it reduces the bandwidth of TV-like content, eliminating the need to convert low-bandwidth media types such as text and images into high-bandwidth video. "SMIL avoids having to swamp the Internet with high-bandwidth video if you want to create interactive multimedia content," added Berners-Lee.

Eases Authorship

Today, few authors write synchronized multimedia presentations for the Web because existing approaches require the use of an authoring tool or to learn programming.

SMIL removes these roadblocks. SMIL documents can be authored using a simple text editor, following the successful model of HTML. Moreover, authors can describe a presentation using a few simple XML elements instead of having to learn a complex scripting language. "SMIL will have the same effect for synchronized multimedia as HTML had for hypertext," predicts Hoschka. "It will bring synchronized multimedia authoring to the masses."

Features Built-In Accessibility

The advanced multimedia capabilities offered by SMIL provide authors full creative control without sacrificing accessibility for Web users who have disabilities. In particular, SMIL introduces textual description of multimedia components, provides the capability to support captioning, and supports alternate media types.

"SMIL represents an important breakthrough for accessiblity of multimedia," said Judy Brewer, Director of W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office. "Its 'universal design' has benefits such as ensuring that multimedia content can be available in situations where mobile access, low bandwidth or noisy environments would otherwise render audio or video displays ineffective."

Aids Internationalization

The increasing need for multimedia content and presentation of documents in multiple languages is well met with SMIL. SMILs internationalization features, including the ability to include multiple audio tracks in a variety of languages, make significant steps towards enabling the proper display of multilingual multimedia documents.

Integrates into Web Architecture

SMIL is the first language that makes the benefits of the Web architecture available to the world of synchronized multimedia. It contains all the components Web users are familiar with, such as URLs, CSS-based layout, HTML-based hyperlinking and an XML-based syntax. As a more advanced feature, SMIL is the first W3C Recommendation to recommend the use of XML namespaces for integrating new components into the SMIL language, and for adding SMIL components to other XML applications that need synchronization functionality.

Further information on SMIL can be found at

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users; reference code implementations to embody and promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, more than 260 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see

$Date: 1998/06/16 18:29:51 $