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
for immediate release --
http://www.w3.org/ -- 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
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,"
Today, few authors write synchronized multimedia presentations for the Web
because existing approaches require the use of an authoring tool or to
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."
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
Further information on SMIL can be found at http://www.w3.org/AudioVideo
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
For more information about the World Wide Web Consortium, see