World Wide Web Consortium Issues First Working Draft of SMIL Boston

Author(s) and publish date


Next version of XML-based multimedia language features reusable modules, generic animation, improved interactivity and TV integration

Testimonials -- 3 August 1999 -- Leading the Web to its full potential, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today releases the first public working draft of Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL, pronounced "smile"), code-named "SMIL Boston".

SMIL Boston builds upon the W3C SMIL 1.0 Recommendation, and adds important extensions, including reusable modules, generic animation, improved interactivity, and TV integration, all written in the Extensible Markup Language (XML).

By publishing this working draft at an early stage of the work on SMIL Boston, W3C is ensuring that the public can follow developments, and that the final result may be widely accepted and adopted. Following W3C practice, the Synchronized Multimedia (SYMM) Working Group provides a public mailing list ( for comments in addition to the feedback channels defined by the W3C Process.

SMIL Boston Delivers Multimedia Presentation Power to the Web, Carries Industry Support

SMIL 1.0 enables authors to bring TV-like content to the Web, avoiding the limitations of traditional television and lowering the required Internet bandwidth for this type of content. With SMIL, producing audio-visual presentations for the Web is easy, since it can be done using a simple text editor, and does not require learning a programming language.

The SMIL Boston Working Draft proposes several extensions to SMIL 1.0, such as integration with TV broadcasts, animation functionality, improved support for navigation of timed presentations, and the ability to integrate SMIL markup in other XML-based languages. These extensions are based on the feedback received from authors, implementors and others using the SMIL 1.0 infrastructure existing today.

Current members of the W3C Working Group working on SMIL are key international industry players in Web multimedia, interactive television and audio/video streaming. In alphabetical order, they are: Canon, Compaq, CSELT, CWI/Oratrix, France Telecom, Gateway, GLOCOM, INRIA, Intel, Macromedia, Microsoft, NIST, Panasonic, Philips and RealNetworks.

SMIL Boston Modules Enable Integration with other XML-based Languages

Designing the syntax and semantics of a markup language requires significant time and effort. Fortunately, designers of other XML-based languages are able take full advantage of SMIL Boston, as it is designed as a set of reusable modules. With SMIL Boston, language designers can for example add timing information to Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), simply by importing the SMIL Boston Timing and Synchronization module, rather than building timing models and syntax from scratch.

SMIL Boston Enables Creation of Animations in XML

Animation is a popular approach to create compelling Web content while reducing the download time for a presentation. While the most popular form of animation on the Web today is animated GIF, it has several limitations. As the animation is encoded in binary format, one needs special editing tools to create it. Further, only GIF images can be used in the animation- one cannot include a JPEG image, or an XHTML headline, or an SVG vector graphics object.

The SMIL Boston animation module eliminates the limitations found of the animated GIF format. Since SMIL Boston modules are based on XML, animations can be written using a simple text editor. It enables animation of any media format, such as JPEG images, PNG images, even video clips. The SMIL Boston animation module can also be used to add animation capabilities to other XML-based languages, such as XHTML, SVG or an XML-based 3D language.

SMIL Boston Improves Navigation Support

One of the benefits of SMIL presentations over traditional TV content is that users can navigate within the presentation, thereby focusing on the parts of the presentation that interests them most. This can be achieved by providing a table of contents of the presentation.

Using SMIL Boston, the table of contents and the content itself can be contained in the same SMIL file, rather than being split over several files. This simplifies authoring, and reduces delays when users navigate through the presentation.

Another benefit over traditional TV content is that SMIL allows authors to include additional content (e.g. background information) on the topic of the presentation. In SMIL Boston, optional parts can be contained in the same SMIL file as the main presentation. This allows the user to access optional content without interrupting the main presentation.

SMIL Boston Integrates Multimedia Objects with TV Broadcast

Future digital television broadcasts are to use very similar techniques as today's SMIL presentations. Rather than broadcasting audio and video signals only, digital TV broadcasts may consist of a combination of images, text and other media objects that are synchronized at the receiver.

SMIL Boston has been designed for integrating multimedia objects into digital television broadcasts. SMIL Boston authors can schedule  media objects to appear at certain points in time, and can write SMIL presentations in which parts are activated by a signal sent from the TV broadcast station.

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, sample code implementations to embody and promote standards, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 340 organizations are Members of the Consortium.

For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see


W3C Contacts:
Janet Daly, <>, +1.617.253.5884
Europe: Ned Mitchell, <>, +; or Andrew Lloyd,<>, +
Asia: Yuko Watanabe, <>, +81.466.49.1170

Testimonials for First Working Draft of W3C's SMIL Boston

INRIA | Macromedia | Microsoft Corporation | Real Networks


SMIL Boston is an important improvement over the SMIL 1.0 specification thanks to its modular design and its integration with other XML languages. SMIL Boston provides content designers a first class language for the production of compelling multimedia presentations over the Web. The support of animations and event-based timing is a radical enhancement of the language functionality.

-- Jean-Pierre Verjus, Director, INRIA Rhône-Alpes


Macromedia is committed to open solutions that help add life to the Web. As one of the key contributors to SMIL Boston, we believe this standard will be an attractive format for synchronizing Internet multimedia, and will complement Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash.

-- Kevin Lynch, Senior VP, Product Development and General Manager, Web Publishing Macromedia Corporation


The release of the SMIL Boston draft is a very exciting milestone for Microsoft. Having actively participated in this working group to more closely integrate the concepts of SMIL with other Web standards, Microsoft will now be able to build on the foundation provided by its HTML+TIME submission to the W3C; Microsoft supports HTML+TIME in Internet Explorer 5 today. The modularization of SMIL will allow for timing, media declaration, and animation to be integrated with the presentation provided by HTML and CSS in a standard way.

-- Mark Ryland, Director of Standards, Microsoft Corporation


As an advocate and aggressive implementor of open standards, RealNetworks believes that Synchonized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) is a fundamental enhancement to the Web architecture, and are pleased to see the next generation of this important standard build upon SMIL 1.0's success. The W3C has once again demonstrated outstanding leadership and effective rigorous processes for extending the value and usefulness of the Web.

-- Len Jordan, Senior Vice President, RealNetworks

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