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Re: Generalities and the SYMM Charter

From: Daniel Weck <daniel.weck@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 23:57:55 +0100
Message-Id: <8EB83C78-779C-4426-9820-F914D860B4C8@gmail.com>
Cc: SMIL List <www-smil@w3.org>
To: Destry Wion <destry@wion.com>

Hi again !

Thank you for your interest in SMIL and for sharing your thoughts.

As you can see on the SMIL public homepage[1], the Synchronized  
Multimedia Working Group (SYMM WG) released the first public Working  
Draft[2] of SMIL 3.0 back in December 2006.

You'll notice various language profiles like "Mobile",  "DAISY",  
"Server", "Set-Top Box", which reflect the needs in application  
domains beyond the traditional internet+web-browser realm.

I find it interesting that you mentioned HTML+Time[3], as I  
personally think that externalizing timing information in a  
declarative format is a great idea. This concept is much in line with  
CSS, which beautifully supports the "separation of content and  
presentation" paradigm. You may already be aware of the W3C note  
published in January 2002, called "XHTML+SMIL Profile"[4]. I'm  
looking forward to more standardization effort[5] in this area, and  
native browser support.

Little by little, SVG is gaining (usable) support in mainstream web- 
browsers such as Opera[6], Mozilla-Firefox[7]. This is great, and I  
am confident that the same will happen with relevant parts SMIL, such  
as the animation module. As a whole however, the SMIL language is  
just too big to fit within the browser realm. That's why it's  
important that stand-alone players remain up-to-date with the  

Finally, you raised the issue of accessibility and of course I  
couldn't agree more. Catering for the needs of people with special  
requirements is paramount, and ultimately it makes the web more  
usable for everyone.

Best, Daniel WECK
(the Daisy-For-All project)

[1] http://www.w3.org/AudioVideo/
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-SMIL3-20061220/
[3] http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms533113.aspx
[4] http://www.w3.org/TR/XHTMLplusSMIL/
[5] http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-SMIL3-20061220/smil-timesheets.html
[6] http://www.opera.com/products/desktop/svg/
[7] http://www.mozilla.org/projects/svg/#status

On 10 Jun 2007, at 22:57, Destry Wion wrote:
> Thanks for the reply, Daniel, and for the insight. I was aware of  
> the MMS and SVG relationships, but not the other two. The Daisy  
> standard for talking books is particularly interesting, I'll try  
> and keep an eye on it. My interests for the time being are mainly  
> with web use.
> I guess it's safe to say that open standards and Web benefits are  
> in the minds of the W3C/SYMM group. That still leaves the  
> question...why is SMIL not adopted in the web?
> I think you're certainly right that Flash has been a factor, for  
> whatever reason. I suspect as well that since delivering a SMIL  
> presentation in a site currently relies on proprietary plugins and  
> code, potential SMIL adopters that care about usability are not  
> bothering. Especially the army of creative types in the web  
> standards crowd (think CSS Zen Garden here), who in my opinion are  
> exactly the crowd SMIL needs right now, but who will never buy into  
> it under the sketchy support and proprietary differences that exist.
> I guess what we really need to see is native support of the  
> standards spec (not wayward formats like HTML + Time) in leading  
> web browsers. I'm pretty sure there isn't much native SMIL support  
> right now outside of what little Opera has implemented.
> Flash isn't particularly liked by many standards professionals, but  
> SMIL has to fit in with the standardista's idea of fair play or  
> they simply won't take it seriously. I think it's a valid user- 
> centered design perspective too, because when you tell a web  
> visitor they have to use this plugin or that browser to see the  
> presentation, then you have already failed the user; the user  
> shouldn't have to do any such thing, and they probably won't if  
> they're not a power web surfer. In fact, the presentation should  
> just work natively in the browser (regardless of which one) and be  
> fully accessible (assuming it was created correctly to begin with).  
> Standards designers understand that well, and thus won't go down  
> that road at all until browsers start meeting them halfway, or better.
> At any rate, SMIL seems healthy enough in other arenas and that's  
> good to know. As well there is increasing web chit chat for having  
> native SMIL support in browsers[1], so who knows, maybe we'll see  
> more moves in that direction now. Even a few modules at a time  
> would be good step.
> [1] http://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/ 
> Feature_Brainstorming:Web_Standards_Support
> Daniel Weck wrote:
>> Hi !
>> You are right in saying that full-blown SMIL presentations are  
>> rare. In that respect, SMIL adoption has been slow.
>> However, SMIL is often used for part of its functionality in other  
>> host formats, rather than as a stand-alone fully-featured  
>> multimedia language. This was the main motivation for modularizing  
>> the standard.  From this perspective, SMIL is being relatively  
>> successful.
>> To name a few:
>> - The Daisy standard[1] for digital talking books relies  
>> extensively on SMIL (fine-grained synchronization of audio and  
>> text content). Tens of thousands of books are published in this  
>> format. Playback software is available in the traditional desktop- 
>> based form, there are also mobile implementations, and there are  
>> quite a few hardware players as well.
>> - Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) uses SMIL to synchronize  
>> graphics, text. video and audio clips on mobile platforms. Most  
>> modern mobile phones include a basic SMIL implementation.
>> - The animation part of Scalable Vector Graphics[2] (SVG) is based  
>> on SMIL animation.
>> - Although not technically a use of SMIL as an XML language, the  
>> Java "timing framework" [3] provides SMIL-like declarative  
>> animations (it was openly inspired by SMIL).
>> - etc.
>> Like you, I am somewhat disappointed though. I generally think  
>> that the state of the art is defined not only by the technology  
>> itself, but more importantly by its level of adoption.
>> In that sense, there many advanced SMIL features that I would like  
>> mainstream multimedia to use. Realistically, this will happen when  
>> publishers, consumers and playback+authoring software implementors  
>> have enough incentive to move forward with SMIL.
>> So far, the demand has been slow, maybe because because of strong  
>> "competitors" like Flash (I guess SVG is in a similar position).  
>> However I think that open-standards (and open-source) have  
>> different strengths to offer, and this is something to capitalize  
>> on for the next version of SMIL.
>> Kind regards, Daniel WECK.
>> (Daisy-for-all.org)
>> [1] http://www.daisy.org/z3986/
>> [2] http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/
>> [3] https://timingframework.dev.java.net/
>> On 10 Jun 2007, at 03:00, Destry Wion wrote:
>>> Hello,
>>> First time poster here. I've been watching the list topics for  
>>> about a month now and dialog is pretty technical, so forgive me  
>>> for the base questions.
>>> I've had an interest in SMIL since around 2001. I'm a web  
>>> standards buff, a technical communicator, and a user interaction  
>>> specialist by trade so my interest is more with the product  
>>> interface side of SMIL as opposed to the programming. I think I'm  
>>> reasonably well-oriented to SMIL; I've read the only two books  
>>> fully focusing on SMIL that are worth reading (Kennedy's and  
>>> Bulterman's) as well as Steve Mack's Streaming Media which had  
>>> some interesting ideas for front-end folks like me, and lately  
>>> I've been poking through the 3.0 draft, when I find the time  
>>> (what a whopper).
>>> My own interests aside, and as much as I would like to see SMIL  
>>> get some traction online, that just doesn't appear to be  
>>> happening. It seems it made a little headway years ago and then  
>>> just disappeared, and along with it went what few SMIL  
>>> presentations I once knew about that were worth bookmarking (only  
>>> about 15, mostly academic stuff, but a few documentary and art  
>>> pieces that were quite good and creative). Today, I can't find a  
>>> decent SMIL presentation to save my life...old, new or otherwise.  
>>> Any reference that comes up in Google always leads to a broken  
>>> link or a proprietary format that I can't even try to play (I use  
>>> a Mac).
>>> I'd like to turn it to you now: As people with direct hands-on,  
>>> I'd be curious and thankful for any comments you might give about  
>>> why SMIL is rare (seemingly extinct) online at this point  
>>> (whether communication reasons, technology, whatever), what needs  
>>> to be overcome to turn that around, and/or any predictions you  
>>> might have for the future of web SMIL.
>>> Also, I notice it's been a year to this month that the SYMM  
>>> Charter hasn't been updated (http://www.w3.org/AudioVideo/2004/ 
>>> symm-wg-charter20060601.html), which is also evident in section  
>>> 12, where it says SMIL 2.0 is the latest recommendation. Since  
>>> the document is clearly dated, maybe someone can clarify a couple  
>>> of things. First, I find the reference "Next Generation" (NG)  
>>> curious, and can only guess it means to indicate SMIL 3.0, is  
>>> that right? Second, how accurate are the milestones now that it's  
>>> been a year? Is NG (3.0) still expected to be a CR this month?
>>> Thanks for your time and thoughts.
>>> Destry Wion
>>> wion.com
Received on Sunday, 10 June 2007 22:58:01 UTC

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